Dear Clean Plates: What is Erythritol?

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Erythritol is a natural sweetener that is less sweet than table sugar.
Erythritol is a good sugar substitute for many due to it's low impact on blood sugar levels, but not everyone tolerates it equally well.

Updated Jul 6, 2017 @ 3:56 pm


Dear Clean Plates,

I’ve seen something called “erythritol” on the labels of sodas and new foods in the health food section. Is it actually healthy? What is it?

–Sugar Mama

Dear Sugar Mama,

Not quite as sweet as table sugar, erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has a low impact on blood sugar levels (read: low glycemic index). You’re likely seeing it in the health food section because of that and the fact that it’s considered a natural sweetener, like xylitol; it also has close to nil calories and carbs. In fact, it is found naturally in some fruits, mushrooms and fermented foods like wine and soy sauce.

Erythritol is often blended with other more-intense sugars to mimic the mouthfeel of sucrose, as erythritol exhibits only about 60 to 70 percent of the sweetness of pure sugar. And while sugar alcohols generally “can act as a laxative in high quantities and also cause gastrointestinal distress like gas and bloating” according to Clean Plates founder Jared Koch, erythritol normally doesn’t cause as much gastrointestinal distress as other sugar alcohols since a majority of it is absorbed before it enters the large intestine. Still, in large doses, it can cause nausea.

Two interesting facts: erythritol is certified tooth-friendly since sugar alcohol can’t be metabolized by oral bacteria, and it has a cooling effect (think: minty sensations) when it’s not already dissolved in water, such as when it’s used in frosting, chewing gum, or hard candy.

“Erythritol can be a good option for many, but because it is a sugar alcohol, it can also have some side effects,” Koch says, referring back to the gastrointestinal distress. “There have also been some reported cases of allergic reactions. That being said, it might be worth trying to see if it works for your body.”

You may have sweet success.