Ask the Diva: What is Xylitol?

Can you substitute this "alcohol" for sugar?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

Q. Is xylitol a good substitute for sugar?

A. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols aren't sugar (although they do taste sweet) and they aren't alcohol--at least, not the sort of alcohol (ethanol) that we imbibe in alcoholic beverages.  Sugar alcohols include maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and others--the "ol" ending usually signals a sugar alcohol.  They are lower in calories than sugar but not calorie-free.  Plus, because the shape of the molecule is slightly different than a true sugar, sugar alcohols do not cause an increase in blood sugar, which makes them helpful for diabetics. Overdoing it with sugar alcohols can cause temporary but unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea.  A newer sugar alcohol called erythritol supposedly minimizes this effect.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.