Why “Sugar-Free” Is Not Always The Best Option

In last week’s post, we talked about 5 reasons why you might be feeling bloated. One of the causes could be sugar alcohols.

There’s a good chance you’re consuming sugar alcohols, so let’s talk about them and if they’re good or bad for you.

First of all, what are they?

Sugar alcohols are a type of sweet carbohydrate that is found naturally in fruit and vegetables but can also be processed and added to foods.

They DO contain calories but a lot less than natural sugar.

This is the reason they are added to foods- they provide the sweetness for a lot fewer calories.

Common sugar alcohols are xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH).

Notice, most end in “-ol”, that’s a good way to spot sugar alcohols on a nutrition facts food label.

You’ll find most of these sugar alcohols in foods labeled “sugar-free” such as hard candies, protein bars, cookies, jams, ice cream, soft drinks, and chewing gum.

The biggest problem with sugar alcohols is that we humans, can’t digest most of them.

When we consume sugar alcohols, they will travel to our large intestine where our gut bacteria will break them down and produce gas as a by-product.

When we consume too many sugar alcohols, this can cause a lot of gas, abdominal pain, bloating & diarrhea!

The amount of sugar alcohol that each person can tolerate is highly individualized.

The biggest advantage to consuming sugar alcohols is that they contain fewer calories- about 2.6 calories/gram on average compared to regular sugar which is about 4 calories/gram.

But the advantage might not be worth the digestive discomfort you can feel if you consume too many sugar alcohols.

When I was in high school I tended to gravitate toward sugar-free foods like lifesavers, yogurt, & protein bars.

I was eating A LOT of sugar alcohols and suffered big-time with digestive issues, thinking I had lactose intolerance at first.

I completely cut out lactose from my diet and realized the problem was not going away and was due to these sugar-free foods causing discomfort.

And honestly, I never really even liked these sugar-free foods.

We make ourselves feel better by going for the sugar-free or lower calorie option, feeling like these options will help us lose or maintain our weight but in reality, most of us never feel the full satisfaction from the lower-calorie options because they just don’t taste the same!

You don’t need to rely on these “diet” foods to prevent you from feeling guilty throughout your weight loss journey.

You’re allowed to eat the real cookie and enjoy your life, even while trying to lose weight.

You’ll likely find eating a small portion of the real stuff is so much more satisfying than the sugar-free, lower-calorie, heavily processed “diet” food.

Find a balance that is realistic and works for you!

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@raividanes

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