Why do we LOVE sugar?
Sugar cravings are ancestral. Millions and millions of years ago, apes survived on seeking sugar-rich fruit. These apes evolved to like ripe fruit.
The sweet taste was also effective in maximising the "feel-good" chemical dopamine’s effect on the brain. Something we all know about!!
However even with this natural ‘sweet tooth’ our ancestor’s health was not compromised or weight a concern as the diet eaten most of the year round had minimal sugar content, carrot being the sweetest source available!
How did we arrive to where we are today?
Over the centuries technology and science have created mass production and artificial chemicals allowing sugar and sugar substitutes to be cheap and plentiful. They have become an integral part of our daily diet. This abundance is now not as wonderful as we once thought….
What is sugar used in?
As we know sugar is found in an array of products, and to make matters more confusing it is also called by many different names, some more obvious than others: brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, or more obscure: corn syrup, molasses, sucrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, glucose, maltose — the list is long.
Impacts of Sugar?
We now have an epidemic of ill health: With the changes on our supermarket shelves to more processed foods it has been calculated we are eating 2-3 times the government recommendations of what our bodies can safely process.
Excess sugar intake is affecting our heart, pancreas, liver, brains, waistlines leading directly to tooth decay, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer.
The government recommends that ‘free sugars’ – sugars that are added to food or drinks, and sugars found in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées – should make up less than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day.
What does this mean?..
Free sugars are found in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are the sugary foods we should cut down on.
For example, a can of cola can have as much as nine cubes of sugar – more than the recommended daily limit for adults.
What is no added sugar?
No added sugar: means that no sugar is added, however there may be naturally occurring sugar in the food, so check the labels and follow the low sugar advice.
What is Maltitol?
Maltitol is a type of sugar alcohol, also called a polyol, that is used as a low-calorie sweetener.
Maltitol is found naturally in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables, chicory leaves and roasted malt. It can also be manufactured by adding hydrogen to maltose, a sugar found in starches like corn, potatoes and wheat. In food processing, it’s often made from corn starch which you will see if you look on the ingredients list.
It doesn’t contain alcohol like that of an alcoholic beverage but rather the term alcohol refers to its chemical structure.
Why Use Maltitol?
Maltitol is a popular low-calorie sweetener that tastes similar to sugar and used as a replacement for table sugar (sucrose). It is 90% as sweet but lower in calories.
Nutritional Value of Maltitol
Regular sugar has 4 calories per gram, Maltitol contains 2.1 calories per gram. This is beneficial as it has fewer calories than most carbohydrates.
Its use is approved in most countries including Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists maltitol as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substance.
Is Maltitol Safe For People Who Avoid Gluten?
Maltitol is gluten-free. Even when it’s made from wheat, maltitol does not contain any wheat proteins. Therefore, it’s safe for those who need to avoid gluten.
Maltitol for People With Diabetes?
Maltitol is safe for people with diabetes as products containing polyols do not induce (or to very small extent) an increase in blood glucose or insulin secretion. It is however a carbohydrate, so it will affect blood sugar depending on the foods you eat, how much and what else you are consuming.
The glycemic index of maltitol is 35, which is much lower than that of table sugar sucrose (65). This means that blood sugar will rise less quickly after eating maltitol than it would after eating the same amount of sucrose.
For people taking insulin, it is recommended you check the sugar alcohol content of foods when counting carbohydrates like so:
If there are more than 5 grams of sugar alcohols per portion, subtract half of those grams from the total grams of carbohydrate and count that as the “available carbohydrate” for insulin adjustment purposes.
Even though maltitol doesn’t cause blood sugar to rise as quickly as sucrose does, you need to monitor how much you eat and include it as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Benefits to Using Maltitol
Maltitol has less calories than sugar and is 90% as sweet.
Maltitol doesn’t cause a bitter aftertaste like other some other sweeteners and works well in the manufacturing process.
Another advantage maltitol has over sugar and many other sweeteners is that it doesn’t cause cavities or tooth decay. One randomized, controlled study found that among people not regularly brushing their teeth, chewing gum with maltitol significantly reduced gingivitis.
Maltitol doesn’t cause any long-term illness or disease, but some people who eat large amounts of it can experience bloating, gas or diarrhoea, so we always advise as with all things to eat in moderation.