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Erythritol: Weird name, epic natural sweetener

by Brock Goodhill

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably seen the recent avalanche of articles linking sugar to some of today’s biggest health problems, like:

That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that clever food techies and scientists have been busy exploring ways to replace the added sugar in our food with healthy, natural, no-calorie alternatives. That means we can all continue to enjoy the food and drinks we love without the negative health impacts.

And one of those healthy, natural, no-calorie sweeteners they’ve discovered is old mate erythritol. But what is exactly is this stuff? And what is erythritol made from?

Let’s take a look.

What is erythritol?

Erythritol is a type of natural, no-calorie sweetener known as a sugar alcohol or polyol.

A sugar what? Yup, a sugar alcohol

But don’t let that name fool you. Erythritol is a compound with a chemical makeup that’s sort of like sugar and sort of like alcohol (although it’s not ethanol, so there’s no alcoholic buzz). But it’s also something that’s completely unique from both of them!

You can find erythritol naturally (and abundantly!) in some fruits and veggies, including: 

  • pears 
  • melons
  • grapes
  • mushrooms 

It also occurs naturally in some fermented food and drinks, like:

  • beer
  • wine
  • cheese

And it’s used in a bunch of products (like Nexba’s drinks!) as a healthy sugar alternative. Why? Because it gives a tasty, sweet hit without bringing in a bunch of unwanted calories and health impacts.

The history of erythritol

Back in 1848, the super-smart Scottish chemist John Stenhouse first discovered erythritol in his lab. And it popped up again in 1950, when food scientists found it in blackstrap molasses. 

But it took more than 100 years from erythritol’s first discovery for anyone to use it as a sugar replacement in food and drinks. And the first ones to really turn it into a commercially popular option were food techies in Japan.

What is erythritol made from?

erythritol Coles

Erythritol is made from the sweet, natural starches in fruits like pears and melons. 

When these fruits ferment, it creates the perfect environment for good bacteria to ‘eat’ the natural starches in the fruit. As they chow down, the bacteria remove all the sugars, turning them into sweet, sweet erythritol.

It sounds complicated and science-y, but really, fermentation is a simple, traditional, age-old process. We humans have been using it for centuries to make a bunch of tasty, healthy food and drinks like:

  • cheese
  • yoghurt
  • beer
  • kombucha
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut

Erythritol – it’s not just about the sweetness.

Erythritol isn’t quite as sweet as sugar, with around 70% of sugar’s regular sweetness. BUT unlike many other sweeteners, erythritol has a similar taste, texture and bulk to sugar. So it feels like sugar in your mouth whenever you eat or drink something that contains it. AND it has no weird, bitter aftertaste – bonus! 

By using erythritol in our top-secret Nexba sweetener blend, we make sure our drinks aren’t too watery, too syrupy or too thick.  They don’t have that ick aftertaste either. Like Goldilocks trying the bear’s porridge – Nexba drinks are just right.

Is erythritol good for you?

Erythritol has been reviewed and confirmed as safe to eat by food authorities all over the world, including:

  • Australia
  • Japan
  • the United States
  • and by the World Health Organisation

But beyond simply being safe, erythritol is a healthy, good-for-you alternative to sugar. 

Why? Our bodies absorb around 90% of the erythritol we eat straight into our bloodstream before it gets to our gut. That means we don’t digest that part – we simply get rid of it from our bodies when we pee. And the remaining 10% passes through our intestines almost undigested.

Because we don’t digest erythritol:

  • our bodies can’t break it down and turn it into energy – simply put, we get no calories from it
  • it has no impact on our blood sugar levels, insulin levels or cholesterol levels
  • unlike some sugar alcohols (xylitol and sorbitol: we’re looking at you) that do make it to our digestive systems en masse, it doesn’t cause *ahem* gassy upsets

So, erythritol is an excellent sugar substitute for people who:

  • are actively reducing their calorie intake
  • have diabetes
  • have high cholesterol

It’s also awesome for just about anyone who wants a deliciously sweet hit without any of the potential side effects of sugar.

Erythritol has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities (your dentist will be happy) and even has antioxidant effects!

Nexba naturally sugar free – featuring erythritol.

erythritol woolworths

Nexba is the top-secret natural sweetener blend that we add to all our drinks to make them naturally sugar-free. And we make it using erythritol (along with stevia!).

It took us six years to find the perfect, safe, natural substitute for sugar. We were obsessed with finding the right blend that would taste and feel so great, you’d never know it wasn’t sugar.

Erythritol was the missing piece of the puzzle. Matching the taste and texture of sugar (with no aftertaste), it was the perfect partner for super-sweet stevia.

Together in our naturally sugar-free blend, erythritol and stevia are a match made in heaven. They provide a powerful punch of healthy sweetness with zero calories and zero ick factor.

AND we tweak our formula for every product we make, so it’s just right for the drink we’re producing. There’s no copy-paste formula at Nexba – it’s an ongoing journey of innovation to bring you the products you love.

Ready to get some natural sweetness in your life?

Reducing sugar and improving your health doesn’t have to mean ditching your favourite drinks. We’ve got you covered.

Find out where to buy Nexba’s range of naturally sweetened drinks with erythritol in Coles, Woolworths and other stockists near you!


Brock Goodhill
Brock Goodhill

Author



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