oh sugar sugar!

We’ve been doing some experimentation with xylitol, a sugar substitute that is processed by the body differently than regular sugar. It’s been around for a long time, and is used more widely in Europe than it is here, especially in chewing gum, as one of the claims is that xylitol binds to molecules in a way that actually can help stop tooth decay. Other claims seem almost nuts, like it being able to help with osteoporosis, yeast infections, and ear infections.

What I like about it is that it doesn’t break down in the body in the same way as sugar, and has a low glycemic index and fewer calories than regular sugar. It also doesn’t have any of the weird drawbacks like the other sugar substitutes, or at least I can’t find any. Don’t let your dog eat it: that’s one caveat. He’ll get very sick. Another is that it has a laxative effect in some people, since the body can’t digest it as well as it does sugar. I’ve seen no effect, and Retrogrouch has seen a small one.

But it cooks like sugar (in everything but yeast breads, since it doesn’t bind with yeast) and tastes and looks like sugar. I added to an apple-rhubarb crumble, and I couldn’t tell the difference between my usual crumble and the xylitol one. We made sushi today, and I used it in the vinegar seasoning for the rice — no difference.

Weird. I’m going to keep using it until someone convinces me not to. Someone who is not Michael Pollan. My grandmother wouldn’t consider this “food,” no, but if she were Finnish she might have distilled it from birch trees (its original source), so I’m going to cheat on this one. Now be quiet and eat your cobbler.

2 thoughts on “oh sugar sugar!

  1. Janet 13 April 2008 / 8:33 am

    Where do you buy it? I’ve been using Splenda in my ice creams, but they freeze super-hard, which is frustrating. My sources say that the sugar alcohols like maltitol and xylitol actually work better so I’ve been wanting to try some.


  2. Eugenia 13 April 2008 / 9:02 am

    I bought it at our local hippy market, Friendly Street Market. It’s from a company called Emerald Forest, and they sell the stuff in a one-pound bag for a whopping 9 bucks. I’d imagine you could find it cheaper in bulk in one of the Berkeley markets.


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