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I Admit: I don’t drink alcohol, but I eat it!

June 15, 2014


A little while ago I wrote about sugar and sweetener alternatives but I wanted to elaborate a little more about sugar alcohols, namely erythritol, as I frequently use them when I bake.

Far from being from Paleo, erythritol is my concession to the 80/20 rule: my cheat in order to keep my food choices working for me.

Paleo sweet treats are a minefield. Most people feel open licence to routinely indulge in them as they are considered far healthier than the sugar & grain laden alternatives. And they are. But more often than not, they are highly calorific and still contain natural sugars that spike insulin levels.

Portion control is paramount here. We need to regulate our “upsize” mentality and appreciate that while our Paleo treat is home-made; without additives; without refined sugar; without grain; and/or without dairy, it is nutrient dense and needs to be smaller than the average “homemade” muffin you buy at the local cafe. I have seen “cupcakes” the size of a grapefruit in some trendy places!

You will have noticed that while my recipes use natural sweeteners, I also use a lot of Natvia. Actually, to be more specific, I don’t use Natvia but I make up my own blend of the same ingredients without the anti-caking additives. Natvia is predominantly an erythritol and stevia mix, where erythritol is a sugar alcohol.

Sugar alcohols are a type of ‘low-digestible carbohydrate” that occur naturally in many fruits & plants. They are a popular choice for diabetics due to their reduced calorie content and low glycemic index. Although there’s not as much research on the metabolic effects of sugar alcohols as there is on artificial sweeteners, evidence suggests that sugar alcohols are at least harmless, and possibly beneficial.*

While sugar alcohols are generally recognised to be safe (and potentially therapeutic), they are known for causing digestive upset due to being predominantly indigestible, (think beans & cabbage). However, most people easily adapt to regular consumption and the adverse G I effects fade quickly.

I use erythritol as it is probably the best-tolerated sugar alcohol and is without an “after-taste”. The best way to use these sweeteners is to mix them with others. You may have experienced the “cooling effect” that xylitol & erythritol have in baking. Our tongues taste sugar alcohols by using different taste receptors than sugar, so if you mix the sweeteners up, the cooling sensation can be avoided. While on the subject, stevia is often criticised for having a foul after-taste, which is often because it is over-used. Be very cautious when using it, a tiny tiny bit will sweeten enough. I use stevia glycerite liquid which has less of this after-taste risk.

I tend not to use xylitol because it is very toxic to dogs and I don’t want my beloved Claude to get himself in trouble.

Many of you will abhor the use of sugar alcohols in your cooking and that is completely fine. I make no excuses.  Erythritol is NOT Paleo, it’s not whole, and it is processed.  I choose to use sugar alcohols in conjunction with natural sweeteners to reduce the carbohydrate value (insulin spike effect) of my sweet treats because I don’t want to give my sweet treats up! I prefer coconut nectar, brown rice syrup and yacon syrup as they have a low glycemic index and will often include them in my recipes.  I do use honey too, mainly for the flavour rather than sweetening as I find it very sweet. So ignore my I use Natvia notes on my recipes and use your favourite sweetener!

Natvia, from the supermarket, is very expensive ($8 for 200g) to buy. I have not been able to buy erythritol locally so I buy my non-GMO erythritol and stevia online. It works out to be about $20 per kilo including postage, which is half the price! If you want to buy from iherb and use this link you will get a $10 discount as a new customer.

My recipe is:

220g erythritol
1 teas stevia powder
Mix very well and store in a sealed container. Use gram for gram (or cup for cup) instead of sugar.

Now go and make CAKE!

Read Chris Kresser’s very informative post on sugar alcohols here. To see my other rambling about sugar look here.

*Xylitol has a very positive effect on dental health, evidence shows it helps prevent tooth decay. It also shows promise for preventing age-related decline in bone and skin health. A few studies indicate that erythritol may have a prebiotic effect, similar to other low-digestible carbohydrates such as fibre and resistant starch.

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