Are you a fan of sugar-free pudding? Have you ever wondered what makes it sweet without the added sugar?
The answer lies in a type of reduced-calorie sweetener called sugar alcohol. Despite its name, sugar alcohol does not contain any ethanol and is commonly found in many processed foods, including sugar-free pudding.
In this article, we’ll explore what sugar alcohol is, how it’s used in sugar-free pudding, and the potential side effects of consuming it.
So, let’s dive in and learn more about this sweet substitute!
What Is Sugar Alcohol In Sugar Free Pudding?
Sugar alcohol is a type of sweetener that is commonly used in sugar-free pudding. It is a reduced-calorie alternative to regular sugar and has about half the calories of regular sugar. Sugar alcohols are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, but most are produced industrially, where they are processed from other sugars, including the glucose in cornstarch.
Common sugar alcohols used in sugar-free pudding include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, and maltitol. These sweeteners are often combined with artificial sweeteners to make foods taste sweeter.
While sugar alcohols are lower in calories and don’t cause cavities like regular sugar, they can have some gastrointestinal side effects. This is because the body can’t digest sugar alcohols, and if you eat too much, it can have a laxative effect.
What Is Sugar Alcohol?
Sugar alcohol is a type of carbohydrate that has a chemical structure similar to both sugar and alcohol, but it is not actually either of those things. Sugar alcohols are also known as polyols and are hybrids of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. They are about 25-100% as sweet as regular sugar, but they have fewer calories and don’t have the same negative effects as regular sugar, such as causing dental cavities and significantly spiking blood sugar levels.
Sugar alcohols are considered low calorie sweeteners (LCSs) and are widely used in the food industry because their flavor closely resembles the taste of regular sugar. Xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol are the most commonly used sugar alcohols in processed foods like sugar-free pudding, energy bars, ice cream, pudding, frosting, cakes, cookies, candies, and jams.
When you see a food labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added,” it may be sweetened with sugar alcohols. However, it is important to note that sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate and can affect your blood sugar levels if consumed in large amounts. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, it is recommended to subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label.
While sugar alcohols are generally safe for consumption, they can have some gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea if consumed in excess. It is best to consume them in moderation and pay attention to how your body reacts to them. Overall, sugar alcohol is a popular reduced-calorie sweetener used in many processed foods like sugar-free pudding for those looking to reduce their calorie intake or manage their blood sugar levels.
How Is Sugar Alcohol Used In Sugar-free Pudding?
Sugar alcohol is used in sugar-free pudding as a replacement for regular sugar. It helps to keep the pudding sweet without adding extra calories and carbohydrates. Most sugar-free puddings use sugar alcohols like mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, and maltitol. These sweeteners are processed industrially from other sugars and are combined with artificial sweeteners to enhance the taste of the pudding.
When you eat sugar-free pudding that contains sugar alcohols, your body can’t digest them in the same way that it digests regular sugar. This means that if you eat too much of it, it can have a laxative effect and cause gastrointestinal distress. To avoid these unpleasant side effects, it’s important to limit your portions of sugar-free pudding or compare the label of the sugar-free version to the regular version to see if the difference in calories and carbs is worth the potential stomachache.
Types Of Sugar Alcohol Commonly Found In Processed Foods
There are several types of sugar alcohols that are commonly found in processed foods, including those used in sugar-free pudding.
1. Mannitol: This sugar alcohol is 50% to 70% as sweet as regular sugar and is naturally found in carrots, olives, and asparagus. It is often made from seaweed and is commonly used in sugar-free gum.
2. Sorbitol: Sorbitol is about half as sweet as regular sugar and is naturally found in apples and pears. It is often made from corn syrup and is commonly used in sugar-free candies.
3. Xylitol: Xylitol is about as sweet as regular sugar and is often used in gum. It comes from wheat straw and some cereals, but food makers often produce it from corncobs.
4. Lactitol: Lactitol provides about 40% of the sweetness of regular sugar and is made from milk. It is commonly used in sugar-free chocolate.
5. Isomalt: Isomalt is about 45% to 65% as sweet as regular sugar and comes from beet sugar. It is commonly used in hard candies and lollipops.
6. Maltitol: Maltitol is about 75% as sweet as regular sugar and comes from corn syrup. It is commonly used in sugar-free baked goods.
It’s important to note that while these sugar alcohols are lower in calories than regular sugar, they can still have some gastrointestinal side effects if consumed in excess. Therefore, it’s best to consume products with sugar alcohol only in moderation, as part of a healthy diet.
Potential Side Effects Of Consuming Sugar Alcohol
While sugar alcohols may be a good alternative to regular sugar for some, there are potential side effects associated with consuming them. The most common side effect is gastrointestinal discomfort, including bloating, gas, upset stomach, and diarrhea. This is because the body can’t fully digest sugar alcohols, and they can ferment in the intestines, leading to these unpleasant symptoms.
A 2006 British study found that participants who consumed xylitol reported bloating, gas, upset stomach, and diarrhea. Erythritol appeared to have milder effects on the stomach, only increasing nausea and gas when given in large doses. However, people have varying reactions to sugar alcohols, so careful experimentation is advised.
For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), sugar alcohols are one type of short-chain carbohydrate that may provoke symptoms. Polyols, another name for sugar alcohols, are included in the FODMAPs acronym, which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. A low-FODMAP diet may help control gastrointestinal symptoms in some people with IBS.
It’s important to note that foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no added sugar” can still provide calories, fat, and carbohydrates. All consumers should read food labels so that they are aware of the nutritional information.
Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols could result in gas, diarrhea or other digestive issues. Sugar alcohols are not fully absorbed by the body. For this reason, they can give many people a stomach ache when consumed in larger quantities. Erythritol is less likely to cause these adverse intestinal symptoms than other types of sugar alcohols. However, people have varying reactions to sugar alcohols, so careful experimentation is advised. One serving of sugar alcohol should not cause much distress.
Is Sugar Alcohol A Healthier Alternative To Sugar?
Sugar alcohol is often marketed as a healthier alternative to regular sugar. While it does have some benefits over regular sugar, it is important to understand its limitations.
One benefit of sugar alcohol is that it has fewer calories than regular sugar. It contains about half the calories of sugar, making it a popular choice for those who are conscious of their caloric intake. Additionally, sugar alcohols don’t cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels like regular sugar does. They are considered a low glycemic index food and may cause only a slight rise in blood sugar levels.
Another benefit of sugar alcohol is that it does not contribute to tooth decay like regular sugar does. This is because the bacteria in our mouths cannot digest sugar alcohols, which means they don’t produce the acid that causes tooth decay.
However, it is important to note that sugar alcohol can have some gastrointestinal side effects. Since the body cannot fully digest sugar alcohols, they can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea in some people. It is also worth mentioning that while some sugar alcohols occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, most are produced industrially.