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Erythritol: It Doesn’t Taste Like Crap

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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.

The primal brownie I made with erythritol.  The batter turned out more like dough so I had to bake them in muffin tins.

The primal brownie I made with erythritol. The batter turned out more like dough so I had to bake them in muffin tins.

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:

Pros
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

Cons
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.

12 comments on “Erythritol: It Doesn’t Taste Like Crap

  1. Dave on said:

    I wanted to comment on how the brownies were not only tasty but filling. There was no way I could eat more two without feeling stuffed!

  2. Oh, great putting the spotlight on erythritol! I agree with your take on things. It may not be primal, but it’s a lifesaver for us sugar addicts looking to live at least 80% of the time like Grok. ;) The health benefits of it trump its chemical nature!

    That brownie still looks chocolaty and good. Do you have a recipe?

  3. shelley on said:

    Hi Lauren – I adore your site and visit it often. In fact, I may have first learned about erythritol from one of your many lovely recipes. The pictured brownie is the result of my attempt at making your brownie recipe. I don’t think I was careful enough measuring and ended up with a stiff dough instead of a batter, which I baked in muffin tins. I reference your site here: http://thisprimallife.com/2009/06/what-i-ate-june-13-2009/

    Thanks for popping by and viva erythritol!

  4. Holly on said:

    I’m going to look for this. I want to start baking more when the kids head back to school. Do you use equal amounts as you would sugar?

  5. shelley on said:

    Hi Holly – The package says you can substitute 1 for 1 with sugar. I’ve heard other people say they use somewhat more or less. You might have to experiment a little depending on the recipe.

  6. Never tried it, but learned of it from http://www.mendosa.com/netcarbs.htm

    I may pick some up in a YEAR when my little bag of Xylitol runs out. LOL

    Isn’t sorbitol the fart maker? Thought I’d read that and I have an uncle that has serious issues with it. It’s often piggybacked with Xylitol, and Xylitol has the bigger name printed on the packages giving it the blame.

  7. meaty on said:

    For sugar like sweetness, use 1.3:1 as a substitution ratio instead of 1:1.

    This is because Erythritol is 60% as sweet as sugar, so you need the extra 1/3 tsp to make up the remaining sweetness.

  8. Did you experience any gastro issues with it? I ask because when any -itol type substances seem to cause awful painful gas and bloating for me.

    Maybe you have to get used to it?

  9. I do not, personally. Malitol is notorious for causing gas and bloating but I have yet to hear anything specifically about erythritol. I put it in my coffee every morning. Recently I have seen it in a lot of products combined with Stevia, but I don’t really like the taste of Stevia.

    If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear what your experience is. The sugar alcohols tend to get lumped together but I think there may be important differences. After all, they are chemically distinct from each other and could easily have different effects in the body.

  10. I use Organic Zero brand erythritol and find that it is actually very very sweet. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup sugar I may only use 1/4 cup of the Organic Zero. I am insulin resistant so cannot do grains or even natural sweetners. I lost weight years ago and have been doing Weston Price for two years now so that has probably kept me from being diabetic. I enjoy eating healthy but do miss desert so I make homemade ice cream with the Organic Zero. I don’t like doing the stevia and eryth. as they are so processed but for me are better than honey. I also like Kal stevia with fiber and use this with the Zero. I made cream anglaise yesterday with these two sweetners, poured it on top of sliced bannas, and top with whipped cream. Best bannana pudding I ever had!

  11. The best thing I have found is to use a mixture of erythritol, inulin(a natural, very lightly sweet fibre), and high quality stevia (NuNaturals). It’s key to use good stevia or it will be bitter and overpowering.

    The first 2 ingredients create bulk and take away from the sharpness of the stevia sweetness. The result is sweeter than sugar, but still easily measurable and very very similar to sugar in flavor. I use it coffee and in desserts and people can’t tell that it’s not sugar.

  12. Kiska on said:

    I had tried xyiltol with BAD side effects. Right now I’m only using stevia to sweeten sparingly and really trying to get my sweets from berries or apples.

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