Sugar alcohols are being used more often in more of our foods. You’ll see them in products like protein bars, ice cream, cookies, puddings, candies, gum, and lots of products with “sugar-free,” and “no sugar added” on the package.
Sugar alcohols are derived from plant products such as fruits and berries. Some examples are sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, lactitol, erythritol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. They’re similar in structure to a sugar molecule but are lower on the glycemic index, impact insulin levels less, contain fewer calories, and are better for your teeth, which is why they’re a popular sugar replacement.
They are one type of reduced-calorie sweetener and when consumed, are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body, which is why they contribute fewer calories than sugar and have less effect on blood glucose and insulin than other carbohydrates.
Should you eat them? Most naturopaths and natural-food advocates will tell you to avoid sugar alcohols because they are processed and don’t digest properly.
IN MY OPINION (based on biochemical research and experience), sugar alcohol is SLIGHTLY better for you than processed sugar – if you’ve got a crazy craving for something sweet, it’s not a horrible option, but in terms of natural healthy eating, a piece of fruit is probably a better choice than a protein bar or “sugar-free” treat.