The ‘war on sugar’ took over from the demonization of fats in everything surrounding healthy diets, weight loss and, more recently, the world fitness. In the search to find the magic ingredient that allows healthy sweeteninge is erythritol the most fashionable sweetener, gaining more and more followers throughout the world both in industry and in domestic kitchens.
In WTP we have cooked with this sweetener on more than one occasion, because we have seen good results that it offers when it comes to imitating the results of common sugar (whether white, brown, panela or derivatives: it is sacralose). We will not get tired of repeating that sugar not only adds sweetness to sweets, forgive the redundancy; also plays a key role in chemical and physical processes of each recipe, such as give body, fluff, aerate or caramelize.
That is why the food industry cannot simply replace sugar and its variants with any sweetener, it must play with various components to achieve a decent result that satisfies both the sweet palate of its gourmand consumers, as well as the texture and appearance. In home baking, it is even more difficult.
After the controversial saccharin and aspartame -which are not good for cooking-, the fashion of stevia and the false idea that sweetening with honey, agave syrup or dates is harmless -they are still sugars-, erythritol has become a few years in the fashionable sweetener. Let’s see what exactly it is, what its virtues and possible contraindications are, and how to use it in the kitchen.
What is erythritol
The erythritol (E-968) It is a sweetener that is part of those known as polyalcohols or polyols, a group to which others known as malitol, xylitol (birch sugar) or sorbitol belong. They are carbohydrates, but they are not sugars nor do they have alcohol.
Polyols can sometimes be found naturally in foods and natural products, such as xylitol, or can be obtained from certain carbohydrates. This is the case of our erythritol, which is usually produced from the fermentation of some carbohydratescereals, using certain yeasts.
Despite being made up of carbohydrates, as indicated by any nutritional information table, contains no calories for practical purposes, and this is recognized by European legislation. Polyalcohols are not totally caloric, but their energy contribution is very low in the proportions used, and erythritol is one of those that adds fewer calories, with almost insignificant figures.
Also like its cousins, this sweetener has a lower sweetening power than sugar, and can cause certain intestinal discomfort, basically flatulence, because polyalcohols are very poorly absorbed in the digestive tract. But, again, erythritol stands out for being the polyalcohol best tolerated by our digestive system, which is capable of absorbing part of its components. Usually, Feel better and is better tolerated in larger amounts.
Another feature that works in your favor is that you can meet a very similar appearance and texture to those of common, granulated or powdered sugar, thus being very easy to use in the kitchen, replacing sugar also in its finishes, and facilitating dosage. In addition, it supports cooking and baked at high temperatures, something not met by all sweeteners.
However, as we have pointed out, it sweetens less intensely than sugar, so manufacturers often combine it with other sweeteners, such as sucralose, so that the results of its use are more like regular table sugar. It also happens the other way around, adding erythritol to sweeteners such as stevia as a bulking agent that provides more volume.
Properties and benefits
Nutritionally erythritol it does not give us anything by itself: it is practically caloric -unless it is combined with other substances or sweeteners- and it does not contain fats, proteins or micronutrients. The carbohydrates indicated in their nutritional composition have little effect on the body, and are even suitable, in general, for people with diabetes -although it is always a good idea to consult a doctor-. Its glycemic index is very low and it does not contain gluten, lactose or fructose.
Its benefits are derived, therefore, from the sweetening power it provides to foods and beverages, sweetening no added calories or sugar of any kind. The effects it may have on the body will depend on what it is combined with or how it is used.
The most recent studies that analyze the impact of sweeteners such as erythritol on the body determine that in addition to not having calories, they also have no glycemic impact they do not raise insulin in the blood, therefore it is also suitable for diabetics, in addition to being a suitable ingredient for ketogenic, low-carbohydrate or hypocaloric diets, and it does not cause cavities.
Thus, it can be beneficial in weight control or slimming diets to gradually reduce the consumption of sweets, desserts and sugary drinks, also managing to increase the satiety of the diet if it is well planned, and in the same way it is an interesting ingredient for the preparation of specific dishes and foods for athletes who seek to increase muscle mass or energy intake without glycemic effects or cutting sugars.
It is therefore compatible with the diet of celiacs, lactose intolerant, fructose intolerant or people more sensitive to polyalcohols, always without abuse. The tolerance of its effects must be verified by each person individually, trying not to commit excesses.
Why shouldn’t you abuse
All sweeteners approved for food use in Europe have passed controls and have been subjected to different studies that certify that are safe for human consumption, also setting the maximum amounts that the industry can use so as not to put health at risk. This does not mean that some products may not be suitable for everyone, due to illnesses, allergies, intolerances or specific sensitivities, as is the case with lactose, gluten or peanuts.
Erythitrol, as we have seen, has the advantage that it is usually well tolerated For people who are more sensitive to more delicate digestions, it does not leave the bitter or metallic aftertaste of other sweeteners, nor does it generate the most typical bloating or gas when consumed in excess. But nevertheless, abuse is not recommended neither of this sugar substitute daily.
In vitonic analyze the scientifically proven reasons that demonstrate the benefits of reducing the consumption of sweeteners as well, since abusing them can cause let’s displace other healthier foods, for example by choosing a sugar-free sponge cake instead of natural fruit for dessert. They also raise the sweetness threshold and increase appetite for sweets, when the ideal would be to reduce it little by little, and several studies link its consumption with a higher body weight and certain metabolic diseases.
There is also a lot of talk about the possible effects that sweeteners may have on the intestinal microbiota, but to date there is no solid scientific evidence to confirm this. as pointed out Mario Sanchez In this article, a study published in the journal Nutrients showed that erythritol would cause “a minimal effect on the composition of the intestinal microbiota”. If you suffer from specific intestinal or digestive pathologies, you should consult a specialist doctor.
Another current disadvantage is its price, since it is still much more expensive than sugar or other sweeteners. Little by little, new formats and brands are arriving on the Spanish market that are lowering costs, although this way we can contain ourselves a bit without abusing so much.
How to use it in the kitchen
The ease with which erythritol can be used in cooking and domestic baking has been another reason that has enhanced the fame of this sweetener. There is no need to juggle or know chemistry to substitute it for sugar in many recipes.
Always check the manufacturer’s directions for useas its exact composition can vary and also, as in the case of Mercadona, it can be combined with other sweeteners to enhance its sweetening power.
This is the key aspect to consider; sweetens less than sugar. This means that, if we are used to a certain level of sweetness and we seek to replicate the same results, we will have to increase the dose proportionally, again, as indicated by each brand. It is generally considered to have a 70% the sweetening power of sugar.
But this can work in our favour, because if we use the same amount in volume or weight of erythritol in a recipe or by adding to coffee that we used for sugar, we will have slightly less sweet desserts, which will progressively help us to lower the tolerance threshold of our palate.
The most common marketing format is granulated, imitating ordinary sugar, although it can be more or less thick depending on the manufacturer. There is also erythritol powderedto use as if it were icing sugar in certain recipes or for baking.
It’s not exactly magical either, and the results it delivers don’t 100% replicate sugar, but of course has no rival in today’s household sweeteners. We have even managed to make fluffy muffins with their little pompadour using only erythritol, something impossible with other sweeteners.
We have noticed that sometimes it is difficult for it to dissolve completely, especially if we use large amounts, but it usually gives good results in hot and cold liquidsbeing suitable for the usual temperatures of a domestic oven, for example to make a regular sponge cake or a baked cheesecake. In moderate amounts it dissolves without problems in smoothies, creamy desserts as custard or flan, and it also works well when preparing a fruit compote or sauce.
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Photos | Unsplash – Marco Verch
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