Is it really all sweet?
If you've been diligently filling out your food diary, hitting your Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat Macros goals every day but struggling to get rid of those last few kilos of excess weight then it may be time to review what you're actually eating. In particular, we need to focus on a group of foods known as 'Sugar Free' that are fast becoming a popular way of having your cake and eating it too (sometimes literally).
So how do manufacturers produce sweet items such as chocolate, lollies, soft drinks which are Sugar Free? They use Sugar Alcohols such as Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol to name just a few. These compounds have a chemical structure halfway between a sugar and an alcohol, and can often be as sweet as table sugar. They taste sweet but contain only a fraction of the carbohydrates- win/win? They also are not easily absorbed into the body; therefore have a lower Glycemic Index (GI) and a smaller insulin response (the hormone the body uses to convert sugars into energy). All of these are big ticks in the positive column for Sugar Free foods. Before you race out to purchase that sugar free chocolate bar as a sweet fix without using too many of those precious carbs, is there anything else you need to be aware of?
Yes, predominately the negatives associated with the consumption of sugar alcohols relate to gut health as they are, for the most part, indigestible. Indigestibility is not necessarily a problem when the source is a natural food like potatoes, lentils and pulses which contain an indigestible resistant starch. However, when the indigestible source is a manufactured, highly refined and processed food such as a sugar alcohol, it can create or contribute to a gut imbalance, resulting in bloating and diarrhoea. We also know the importance of gut health in weight loss and maintenance and avoiding chronic illness including diabetes.
While sugar alcohol might be better for you than actual sugar (what wouldn't be?) it is still not intrinsically healthy. If you've got an insatiable craving for something sweet, sugar alcohols are the lesser evil, but in terms of healthy eating, you would be much better off grabbing a piece of fruit than that protein bar with a list of ingredients that you can't pronounce.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.