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Erythritol (Natural, Low-Calorie Sugar Substitute)

Updated on December 8, 2016

I first found out about erythritol when I bought Honest Tea's Tangerine Green Tea, which has only 10 calories but is all natural. How? It uses a little-known, natural low-calorie sweetener called erythritol. Erythritol has only 5% of the calories of sugar, but 70% of the sweetness.

It's a sugar alcohol, but with a few key benefits over both sugar and other high-calorie natural sweeteners, and sorbitol, maltitol and others used in low-carb products today.

Benefits of erythritol vs. maltitol, sorbitol and other sugar alcohols

  • Fewer calories — 0.2 calories per gram, versus 2.1 and 2.6 calories per gram in maltitol and sorbitol, respectively
  • Higher digestive tolerance (i.e. no bloating or diarrhea) — it is much harder for bacteria in your digestive tract to digest and convert to gas; it is for the most part absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted through urine unchanged

Advantages of erythritol over sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.

  • Only 5% of the calories of sucrose: 0.2 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram in table sugar (sucrose)
  • Does not stimulate a blood sugar spike and insulin response, the pattern of which is being implicated in diabetes and weight gain; sucrose is far worse than fructose (in honey), but the reponse is far higher in both than in erythritol and other sugar alcohols
  • Does not promote tooth decay —like xylitol, it is "tooth friendly"

Tea from the same source starts off at about same temperature. Erythritol cools much more than sugar as it dissolves.
Tea from the same source starts off at about same temperature. Erythritol cools much more than sugar as it dissolves.

Other benefits of erythritol

  • It's 100% natural, occurring naturally in fruits like canteloupe and grapes. Also, it's a natural by-product of fermentation by bacteria in your digestive tract.
  • It's safe. The U.S. FDA lists it as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) substance, the highest-safety designation, like foodstuffs.
  • It is not hygroscopic, which means it doesn't attract moisture and start to clump and harden, like fructose or brown sugar do.

Dissolved erythritol dries leaving a dirty-looking film on glasses. Not a big deal, but different from sugar.
Dissolved erythritol dries leaving a dirty-looking film on glasses. Not a big deal, but different from sugar.

The downsides to erythritol

  • It has a large, negative heat of dissolution, which means that it cools hot liquids much more than sugar when you dissolve it (see picture to right), and it is very difficult to dissolve it in cold liquids like iced tea.
  • It is only 70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), so you will have to use more of it to make something as sweet as sugar.
  • It will not melt or caramelize, so it will not brown or melt if you want to make candy or caramel.
  • When a liquid with erythritol dries on a glass, it creates fine, white crystals, which makes your glass look really dirty.

To me, these are not big negatives, but they are worth mentioning. For iced tea, it's worth dissolving the erythritol in hot water first, and then adding that to the iced tea, like a simple syrup.

What does erythritol taste like?

It's sweet, but cool. When you put it on your tongue, it will have that cooling sensation that some breath mints have (but without the minty flavor). There is a very faint metallic aftertaste to it. It does not taste as "full" as sugar, but it will certainly taste sweet.

A popular sweetening product, TruVia, uses erythritol in combination with a stevia-based sweetener. With its granular, sugar-like form and sweetness, it's a good base that gets a boost from the stevia or rebaudioside (the component in stevia that gives it its sweetness). Any bitterness you're tasting in TruVia is coming from the stevia (rebaudioside), not the erythritol.

I've found that erythritol works best at providing sweetness to cold beverages, like iced tea. I've also run it through a blender to pulverize it, and added powdered stevia to things like smoothies, and it's also worked very nicely. For some reason, the sweetness tastes too flat in warm beverages like coffee or (hot) tea, but it will impart some sweetness to them. I would not use it to bake or cook, except in very small quantities (like giving a tiny sweet lift to a sauce).

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      psipsi222@gmail.com (Pia) 4 years ago

      i have been using all three products stevia, xylitl and lasltly erythritol for a decades I love them. i have offen mixed them usually equal parts (what would be equivalent to) for hot drinks. I have made the simple sugar also I agree dissolving in cold items needs help. Makes having the

      blend on hand so easy. More important the combination is a great mix.

      Adjust it to your liking to get the taste/sweetness you prefer.

      I have made baked with all three as well scones, various cookies, sweet breads e.g. banana, carrot. It does work just have to work out the kinks to find you sweetness level. It is good to know the products are getting more of a household name. This could bring the prices down a lot. : )

    • profile image

      Carolyn 5 years ago

      By the way, Zsweet is a great brand of erythritol based sweetener, with a little stevia add to enhance the sweetness.

    • profile image

      Carolyn 5 years ago

      "It will not melt or caramelize, so it will not brown or melt if you want to make candy or caramel".

      Actually, it will! Have you ever actually tried it? I have and I've made a number of candies with erythritol, including brittle and caramel sauce. Granted, it won't stay soft, like sugar-based caramel sauce, it will end up hardening. But if you reheat it, it will soften up again. Erythritol is far more versatile than most people realize. I've played with it a tremendous amount and have created some amazing things with it. I blog about them, if you care to check any out, like my Salted Peanut Caramel Clusters...

      http://www.alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2011/01/salte...

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

      JayeWisdom: You're right, Truvia, and Zevia soda (and some other brands like Stevita and Steviva) use a combination of erythritol and stevia in order to sweeten without using artificial sweeteners.

      Thank you, puckrobin, for your valuable comment re: safety for dogs.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I agree with puckrobin. My mini schnauzer means the world to me, and I know xylitol in any amount can be fatal to dogs; therefore, I'm a compulsive label reader in order to avoid it. It's good to know erythritol is not toxic to dogs in reasonable amounts. (My 23-pound fur-girl looks for crumbs on the kitchen floor, too.)

      I found a stevia product, Truvia, that comes in packets that each contain 3 grams of erythritol. Since I only use it to sweeten coffee or tea (neither of which interests my doggy), and I'm very careful to never spill it, I don't feel worried about using it. Apparently, the erythritol is used to make the stevia seem more granular (similar to sugar). I use a pure stevia product (bought in bulk, not in packets) for other sweetening uses.

      Thanks for the info....

      Jaye

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 5 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice hub ,thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      puckrobin 6 years ago

      I did a bit of searching - unlike xylitol (which I prefer the taste of compared to Stevia, but that's just me), erythritol is NOT toxic for dogs up to a pretty significant amount - about 3.5g per kg of dog's weight, so my little dog who's about 20 lbs could have up to 31.5 g of erythritol safely, whereas there are warnings on vet association sites about even tiny amounts of xylitol causing kidney failure in dogs in a very brief time. Since I have three mutts who are my world, but also have metabolic syndrome, it's great to find a sweetener I can have on hand without risking that the little one's nosiness, sweet tooth and Dyson-like ability to inhale small particles of anything she's after, will harm her. Check out the abstract of the toxicity study here:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleUR...

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Diane - who said xylitol causes tooth decay? I make it clear that xylitol, like erythritol, is "tooth friendly" above.

    • profile image

      Diane DelVecchio 6 years ago

      I don't know where they got their information, but XYLITOL DOES NOT cause tooth decay. It is in fact, good for your teeth and recommended by dentist. My sister is a dental hygienist and they give away gum and mints with xylitol in them. How do people get away with these lies?

      Here is more on Xylitol and benefits to your teeth. BTW, I don't hold stoc in xyitol, I am just a consumer who's been using it for years.

      http://www.dentist.net/xylitol-teeth.asp

    • profile image

      VivekSri 6 years ago

      good that you shared! Thanks for this, have learnt some new things. very handy info and cool hub.

    • livelonger profile image
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      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Rose - I'm not familiar with SWEET. What is it made of?

    • profile image

      Rose 6 years ago

      Could you tell me if the erythritol you are talking about tastes the same as SWEET? I love the taste but not the price of the ZSWEET. Thanks

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 7 years ago from Florida

      This sounds great - I have been looking for an all natural sweetener. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Kevin Ashford 7 years ago

      How dose my company become a dist. for your comp.

      E-mail me.

    • profile image

      Lani 7 years ago

      what is the essential difference between erythritol and xylitol. It seems to have many paralell advantages and disadvantages.

    • profile image

      Linilla 8 years ago

      Those who are allergic to yeast and fermented foods need to know that erythritol is a fermented product made from glucose and yeast. I didn't know this until I had an unpleasant reaction from a product that contains erythritol.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Rita, I'm not aware of being able to buy powdered erythritol, but it's very, very easy to make. Throw it in your blender, pulse for about 5-10 seconds, and you'll have erythritol powder! I've made it many times, mostly because the powdered version is much easier to dissolve in cold drinks like lemonade and iced tea.

      Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • profile image

      Rita 8 years ago

      I read on About.com that powdered erythritol is different from crystalized erythritol... do you know anything about this? I bought some of the "powdered" variety online but it looks crystaline to me (though the packaging says it's powdered) and I made chocolate peanut butter fudge from a recipe I found online here: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/candy/r/sugarfree... - the fugdge is AMAZING! Tastes just like the real thing!!

      I wanted to pass on the great recipe to everyone. :) But please give your info on the powdered vs granular - which do you use?

      Best,

      Rita

    • profile image

      Mary 8 years ago

      Thanks for the information.........we tried to phone the emeralforestsugar.com and they couldn't take an order!! We placed an order on line with FREE SHIPPING!!

      Livelonger do you know if this product is safe for dogs? I see that zylitol isn't. So we ordered erythritol for us because of GI issues and wonder now if it is safe for the little dog who always wants a bite?!

    • livelonger profile image
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      Jason Menayan 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Nan - xylitol does have caloric value, and it does ferment in your GI tract (leading to gas and bloating).

    • profile image

      Nan 8 years ago

      How is erythritol different from xylitol?

    • livelonger profile image
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      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      my pleasure, robie2!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi Livelonger--I've been using Stevia root instead of sugar for years and do like it, but think I might give this a try too, especially since I can just add it to my next Amazon order:-) Thanks for a really interesting read on a product I knew nothing about.

    • livelonger profile image
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      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      I have no idea what the WW Core program allows and doesn't allow, but erythritol basically doesn't have any carbs or calories, so it's probably allowed.

    • profile image

      Weight Watcher 9 years ago

      I'm on the weight watcher "core" program, do you think this would be acceptable?

    • profile image

      Ken Case 9 years ago

      I found this product at a little better price at http://emeraldforestsugar.com They have a 5# pkg for $19.95 with no shippiing charge. Am anxious to give it a try.

    • profile image

      Lisa Barger 9 years ago

      I can't find this in my area but I'd love to try it. I'm one of those that can't use sugar alcohols like Xylitol so I'm keen on trying erythritol instead.

    • livelonger profile image
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      Jason Menayan 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Hi Gredmondson; Yes, it's a little less sweet than sugar (but it has a similar "flavor" to sugar), but if you put some of the granules directly in your mouth, you'll feel it get cold because as it dissolves in your mouth, it absorbs heat. In liquid drinks, you don't notice it, though.

    • profile image

      gredmondson 10 years ago

      Thanks, Livelonger! Does this product have a different taste from sugar?

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 10 years ago from San Francisco

      You do realize it's not sugar, right? It helps to read something before reacting to it.

    • profile image

      Furtano 10 years ago

      Wow I want to sell this stuff too! What a profit margin. You can buy sugar for less than 99c/lb and you're selling this crap for 800% more. Rip off.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes, most are, because they're not absorbed into the bloodstream (they remain in the digestive tract) and because bacteria like to digest them (producing gas). But erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream much more than other sugar alcohols, and gas-producing bacteria don't seem to like it.

    • vic profile image

      vic 10 years ago

      Aren't sugar alcohols known for their gas producing properties?

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