Everyone knows I love chocolate (dark chocolate is my favourite) and when there is chocolate near me I ALWAYS have to have a closer look. One of these moments was at a Hershey’s store. After passing the Reece’s Peanut Butter cups, milke chocolate and chocolate buttons I saw a bag of Hershey’s Special Dark Sugar Free chocolate. I thought oh ok that’s good! How?
As you can see from the photo below the first ingredient listed is Maltitol – a sugar alcohol.
Maltitol is the product of hydrogenation of maltose from starch – it comes from an organic source. It’s a nutritive sweetener (meaning it DOES provide calories) that provides the same properties as sugar (except browning) less calories and almost as sweet as sugar. Sugar (sucrose) relative sweetness has a rating of 1 and maltitol 0.9. Sugar provides 4kcal/g whereas sugar alcohols provide around 2.6kcal/g. Sugar alcohols are digested and absorbed slower than simple sugars and are used in sugarless gum, mints, candy, baked goods, ice-cream and chocolate.
I’ve already mentioned the lower calories maltitol provides and the fact that it’s absorbed slower means that your blood glucose won’t rise so quickly – a good thing for diabetics and for weight control. Sugar alcohols aren’t readily metabolized by acids in the mouth so don’t contribute to tooth decay. Everything sounds good!
Sugar free must mean it’s better right? In a way, yes, in a way, no. Why?
Because of the fact that sugar alcohols are digested and absorbed slower means it stays in the intestinal tract longer which may cause a laxative effect if excess amounts are consumed. You will notice this warning on sugar-free gum. Some people will have a reaction with sugar alcohols causing gastrointestinal discomfort. Also, just because it’s sugar free doesn’t mean zero calories in your diet neither does it mean that it’s effects on the body are opposite that of ingesting sugar. Quite the opposite.
In moderation maltitol can be a great substitute for sugar but now you have a little more knowledge on this “sugar free” option you can make a wiser choice on whether or not sugar alcohol is for you.
Do you use sugar alcohols/alternative sweeteners? Does it effect you in any way?
1 – Byrd-Bredbenner C., Berning, J., Beshgetoor, D., and Moe, G, Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition, McGraw Hill, New York
3 – http://blog.amberlynchocolates.com/category/sugar-free-recipes/