Xylitol—the sweet secret for your teeth and waistline

Added sugar may be the single unhealthiest ingredient in the today's diet. Over the past 20 years, there has been a push to consume xylitol instead of sugar and its appearance means it can be sprinkled or used  in place of traditional sugar in cooking and baking in the exact same quantity.

So what do we know about Xylitol?

Xylitol is an all-natural alternative to sugar and can be found in berries and other fruits, some vegetables and in the woody fibres of birch tree and corncobs. In fact, our bodies produce up to 15g of xylitol daily during normal metabolism.

Traditionally, it has been used in chewing gums, toothpastes and mouthwash as it has a strong sweetening effect but no aftertaste. It is a common ingredient in sugar-free candies, mints, and diabetes-friendly foods.

Xylitol has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels and can help stabilize blood sugar levels, a very useful piece of information, in particular for people with diabetes.

The natural sweetener has a glycaemic index of just 7, compared to sugar which has a glycaemic index of 65. Dietary xylitol is easily metabolised by the body. A small portion is slowly absorbed through the small intestine where it is metabolised by friendly bacteria to short-chain fatty acids and carried in the portal blood supply to the liver, where it is converted to glucose which provides energy.

How does Xylitol impact oral health?

When it comes to children in particular, several clinical trials undertaken around the year 2000, showed that when mums-to-be chewed gum containing Xylitol regularly, it actually resulted in a reduced number of Streptococcus Mutans (the bacteria responsible for tooth decay)  in their children and this continued at least until the children were up to 5 years of age (Isokangas, et al. 2000).

Other research on children has found that xylitol lollies, pops, ice, gums, puddings, and cookies help in arresting dental decay. Follow-up studies five years later showed that xylitol gum resulted in reduction of caries by 59% against no gum use.

Trials conducted in Finland, a major producer of xylitol, proved that children of xylitol-treated mothers had lower levels of S. mutans than those treated with fluoride varnish or chlorhexidine.

Consistently using small amounts of xylitol stimulates saliva flow and increases saliva's buffering capacity and protective factors in the mouth.

Xylitol Christmas Cake Recipe

from 'Sweet Friends' New Zealand

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mixed fruit
  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 tabs sherry, rum, brandy or orange juice
  • 1 ½ cups Spry® Xylo Sweet
  • 1 cup milk
  • 250 gms butter
  • 3 eggs (beaten)
  • 3 cups plain flour

Teaspoons of each of the following

  • Nutmeg
  • Ground Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Baking Soda
  • Vanilla Essence
  • Lemon Essence

Instructions

  1. Mix fruit, sherry (rum, orange juice or brandy), Spry® Xylitol Sweetener and spices and allow to stand at least 2 hours. (Overnight is more preferable).

  2. Combine butter and milk in a saucepan over a low heat and stir till melted.

  3. Add fruit to mixture.
  4. Mix together the eggs and essences and add to the above.

  5. Finally add in sifted flour. Mix thoroughly and place in 20 cm tin lined with baking paper.

  6. Bake in very slow oven for 5½ hours or till cooked.

  7. Pour over extra spirits or orange juice if desired while still warm.

  8. Also keeps well stored in the fridge.