I will venture to say that erythritol is not a strictly primal sort of food. Although it is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some plants such as pears and various fermented foods, you have to do some chemistry in order to get the little crystals that you can pour into your tea or coffee. Grok encountered fermented fruit now and again, but he did not don a white coat and prepare erythritol from it.
That said, since I stumbled across this stuff a few weeks ago, erythritol has been very useful in my primal diet. No matter what sort of resolve I work up the day before, I usually end up putting some sugar in my morning coffee. Before starting to eat primal, I used to just dump it in. Later I started limiting myself to 3 cubes/day. Even with this small amount, however, I end up consuming sugar here and there for several hours every morning. So may main motivation for trying erythritol was use it in my coffee. I was also curious to see how it would work in a recipe as a sugar substitute.
Turns out that erythritol makes a fairly good substitute for sugar in my coffee. I don’t notice a weird aftertaste like I do with pretty much all fake sugars. It’s not as sweet as sugar, but it does the job… kind of like sugar’s less charismatic but friendly sibling. So far, I have only tried erythritol in one baking application. I made what were supposed to be brownies. Erythritol does not have the same bonding or solubility characteristics that sugar does so it can make baked goods come out dryer and of course, less sweet. The brownies were certainly edible, even enjoyable, but a little dense.
Erythritol has been fairly common in Japan since the 1980′s but isnt so easy to find in the U.S. It is sold under the brand names ZSweet and Zero (guess ‘erythritol’ just doesn’t have that ring. I’ve seen both ZSweet and Zero at Whole Foods. Zero is sold in little single-serve packets and is expensive. You can also buy erythritol online which is probably your best bet if you plan to use it in quantity. I bought a 4lb bag for $23.99 online at Honeyville.
In summary, here are the major pros and cons to erythritol as I see them:
Does not cause rise in blood sugar levels
Does not have gross aftertaste (like splenda or some of those other fake sugars
Does not cause gastrointestinal upset like other sugar alcohols can, such as xylitol
Only .2 calories per gram (95% less than sugar
Can be used in drinks or recipes
Arguably not a real “food”
Not found in its pure form in nature
Only 70% as sweet as sugar
Not easy to find
As time goes on, I don’t expect erythritol to be a daily part of my diet. My ultimate goal is to drink my coffee black… or even cut out coffee altogether (imagine that!. For the time being, however, erythritol lets me enjoy my coffee without having to use sugar and I can’t find much harm in it. If you cant stand the taste of artificial sweeteners but struggle to get the sugar out of your diet, you might find this stuff useful, too.