Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be used to replace sugar for flavoring drinks and for adding to foods. It’s popular among keto dieters because its versatility; it can handle heat quite well, so it can even be added to cake, cookies, and other foods that need to be baked. Our research team has ranked the ten best xylitol sugar substitutes on the market, and dug up the latest science on the benefits and side effects of using xylitol to replace sugar in your diet.
1. Morning Pep Pure Birch Xylitol
Morning Pep Pure Birch Xylitol is derived from birch trees grown in the United States. This sugar substitute comes in a 16 ounce bag that easily reseals. This quality and versatility makes it our top ranked xylitol.
2. NOW Foods Xylitol
NOW Foods Xylitol comes in a resealable one pound bag that comes in a moderate-sized sugar grain that’s versatile enough for adding to drinks and for baking. It’s popular for its mild, sweet flavor and positive dental health benefits.
3. Bulksupplements Xylitol Crystals
Bulksupplements is widely known for delivering quality supplements with no frills and no nonsense. That’s certainly what you are getting with this xylitol sugar substitute. This is the best option if all you need is a small amount: At 8.8 ounce, these resealable bags are great if all you use is a teaspoon or so every day in your coffee.
4. Emerald Forest Xyla
If all you need is a modest amount of xylitol, Emerald Forest Xyla is a decent choice. At 16 ounces per package, it’s good for the occasional user who wants to mix a teaspoon or two into their coffee, but isn’t going to cook or bake with xylitol.
5. KAL Xylitol
KAL Xylitol comes in a two pound bag with a unique spigot-style closure that makes it a great choice for directly adding to coffee and tea. The xylitol itself is pretty standard, but the convenient packaging certainly comes in handy.
6. Zveet Birch Xylitol
Zveet Birch Xylitol comes in a three pound bag and is derived from birch, which is a nice perk if you are looking for a more naturally-processed sugar substitute. Despite the large bag size, resealing this bag is fairly easy, so it’s a decent choice for regular users who want to have a lot of xylitol on hand.
7. Nutricost Xylitol Powder
Nutricost Xylitol Powder comes in a two and a half pound tub that makes resealing and storage easy. Though not everyone has a need for this much xylitol, it’s good for people who occasionally have to cook for large groups. The plastic tub is more conducive to storage and resealing than the plastic bags most other xylitol sugar substitutes come in.
XyloSweet is a bulk-sized xylitol product that come in a huge five pound bag. If you are a heavy user, or regularly cook for large groups who are trying to cut back on their sugar consumption, this is a solid choice, but the sheer amount of xylitol included in a package of XyloSweet might be a bit much for most people.
9. Health Garden Confection Xylitol
Health Garden Confection Xylitol is made especially for baking, which is a unique perk. However, large-batch bakers will struggle with the relatively paltry 14 ounce package size.
10. Xyloburst Xylitol
Xyloburst Xylitol is another bulk option that comes in a five pound bag. It’s well-suited for bulk users, but does not have some of the perks you’ll find in other bulk-sized xylitol options, so it’s difficult to rank much higher.
Xylitol benefits and side effects
Xylitol is an alternative sweetener containing fewer calories than sugar and a respectable benefit package, including a low rating on the glycemic index (GI) scale, which means your blood sugar does not rise nearly as much for a given amount of xylitol, compared to sugar.
Compared to table sugar (rated between 60 and 70 on the GI scale), xylitol clocks in at 7, which means it won’t spike blood sugar levels. (1) Sugar delivers 4 calories for every gram you ingest, and xylitol only knocks you back 2.4 calories per gram. Moreover, these calories are digested much slower, so as mentioned above, your metabolic system does not take such a heavy hit.
A naturally-occurring sweetener found in small quantities in certain fruits and vegetables, xylitol shares another attribute with sugar besides the ability to stimulate taste buds: the commercial processing renders it essentially devoid of nutrients.
So it’s still empty calories, but not as many.
Classified as a sugar alcohol, xylitol is made through an industrial process from xylan (2), a plant fiber. The designation of sugar alcohol doesn’t mean it’s intoxicating; it refers to the molecular structure, a hybrid of alcohol and sugar.
Xylitol is safe for anyone, including children and alcoholics. Xylitol looks, tastes and acts almost exactly the same as sugar, and is an excellent alternative sweetener choice.
Xylitol has a lower glycemic rating and much lower calorie content compared to sugar. At less than half the calories of sugar, xylitol is a popular choice for anyone watching carb intake. It delivers sweet flavor without spiking blood sugar levels, so it’s weight-loss friendly and easy for diabetics to incorporate into their diets. (3)
Because it doesn’t contain any fructose, the troublemaker in sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), xylitol won’t play havoc with your metabolism. (4)
Xylitol cannot be fermented by bacteria in your mouth, so it is beneficial for dental health and oral hygiene. While sugar has always been the villain in regard to dental health, xylitol plays the opposite role, which is why dentists often recommend xylitol-sweetened gum.
Due to the way it interacts with bacteria found in the mouth, xylitol actually discourages the formation of cavities. (7) It also reduces gum inflammation, making it less likely you’ll develop gingivitis.
Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria primarily responsible for plaque formation, usually feed on glucose from food we eat. They can’t utilize xylitol, but they ingest it anyway, essentially clogging intake pathways so they end up starving and dying off. (8)
Bad bacteria levels can drop up to 75%, while the good bacteria aren’t affected. (9) One study noted a reduction in the incidence of cavities by subjects chewing xylitol-sweetened gum ranged between 30% and 80%. (10)
Xylitol offers even more oral health benefits: (11). First off, it reduces the acidity of your saliva, protecting tooth enamel from degradation and improving your smile. Xylitol also increases calcium absorption in the digestive system (12) and increases saliva production, which makes more calcium and phosphorus available for tooth remineralization.
Xylitol may help prevent ear infections. Ear, mouth and nose cavities are all connected, so the interaction between bacteria like those that cause plaque formation and contribute to dental cavities works in our favor in other areas as well.
Because xylitol feeds harmful bacteria throughout the system, it decreases the risk of developing ear infections. (13)
One study of children who suffered from recurrent ear infections showed those who used xylitol dropped the rate of infection by 40% (14), which could mean cutting doctor visits by almost half.
Xylitol discourages growth of yeast infections caused by candida. Candida albicans is a yeast or fungus that occurs normally in the body at low levels. Certain medications like antibiotics or steroids upset the balance, leading to overgrowth in warm, moist places like the throat and mouth. (15)
Infants, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system are especially vulnerable, and the condition can lead to serious health issues.
While other sugars containing fructose, maltose and glucose encourage the growth of oral candida albicans yeast, xylitol does the opposite.
Candida yeast establishes itself in the mouth and throat through adhering to epithelial cells lining surfaces; xylitol decreases the ability of candida albicans to attach, making it more difficult for an overgrowth to occur. (16)
Xylitol can increase your body’s collagen production. We have more collagen in our bodies than any other protein, concentrated mostly in connective tissues and skin. As we age, we produce less collagen, as well as the elastin that keeps skin smooth and firm.
When collagen production drops, skin and connective tissues change in character, causing more wrinkles and sagging, as well as decreasing the skin’s natural ability to avoid sun damage. (17)
Animal studies with xylitol suggest it may be effective in bumping up collagen levels, leading to thicker and smoother skin. (18) Eating sugar has exactly the opposite effect: it decreases the synthesis of collagen and prematurely ages the connective tissue in your body
Xylitol is potentially helpful for maintaining bone health. Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic bone disease in America, affecting up to half of post-menopausal women. (19)
Bone density decreases with osteoporosis, making fractures more likely.
While the effects of xylitol on human bone mass haven’t yet been tested, rats fed xylitol increased bone mass and bone mineral levels. (20) Researchers believe constant low levels of xylitol may also help minimize age-related bone deterioration in humans, though the precise mechanism in play is not clear.
Xylitol can feed beneficial gut bacteria. Health and nutrition research has increasingly focused on the probiotic bacteria in your stomach and intestines; these bacteria appear to be linked to everything from your immune system function to your overall levels of inflammation.
The beneficial effects of cultivating healthy bacterial colonies in the gut are becoming more widely understood, and xylitol can play a positive role.
In tests comparing the response of humans and rats to xylitol feeding, changes in gut bacterial activity were small, but fecal measurements made significant positive shifts. (21) Xylitol appears to act much like a soluble fiber on this level, as it gives beneficial bacteria additional nutrients that they need to multiply and outcompete undesirable bacteria in your gut.
Xylitol is reasonably priced and widely available. Moderation is important during introduction; too much can cause digestive distress, including gas, bloating or diarrhea. (22)
Most people don’t have problems starting with a small amount over the first few days. Children should do fine with up to 20 grams of xylitol daily.
However, xylitol can cause gastrointestinal disturbances when consumed in large amounts, so you may want to hesitate before you completely replace all of the sugar in your diet with xylitol if you are a heavy sugar consumer. These symptoms do not typically appear until you consume very large amounts of xylitol, though (on the order of 100 grams per day or more).
If you have a dog, make sure it doesn’t get any food containing xylitol; if you think it might have ingested a small amount, see your vet immediately.
Canine systems react differently than humans, secreting large amounts of insulin, triggering uptake of glucose from the bloodstream that can lead to low blood sugar, which can be fatal. (23)
Xylitol is a great alternative to sugar. Its caloric content is much lower, and its glycemic index is far smaller too. This means it is not the same metabolic shock to your system that you get when you consume sugar. Further, it dissolves easily in liquid, and handles heat very well, so it’s well suited for both baking and adding to coffee or tea. It’s a great way to improve your diet if you’ve got a sweet tooth: you can add some sweetness to your food and drink without disrupting your health.