We all know that refined and artificial sugars are one of the worst foods for our bodies, and especially for our skin, which is frustrating because sugar is in just about everything. And then of course if you’re a sugar addict like me, it takes a lot of willpower to try and ignore those sweet food cravings and eat something healthy instead.
I have a bit of a habit of reading the ingredients list on ‘treats’ in health food stores. It’s rare that I find a product that does not contain any refined, cane or artificial sugars, but I’m always hopeful. Keep in mind that just because you find a product in a health food store, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Health food stores usually stock milk-free and gluten-free products as well, which are good for allergies but often still high in refined sugars.
I keep reading Maltitol in these ingredients lists …
Maltitol is an artificial sweetener which I’ve seen in just about every ’sugar-free’ chocolate, ice-cream and cookie in North America. While Maltitol is very rarely found in foods in Australia, it seems to be incredibly popular here in Canada and the U.S.
When I first saw maltitol listed in the ingredients on a food packet (I think it was chocolate), I memorized the spelling and did a quick Google search for it when I got home. I came up with fairly average results - I didn’t find any strong evidence that maltitol is bad for you, but I didn’t find any glowing health reports either. I also had a strong intuitive feeling that maltitol is not that great an ingredient for my body, so I avoided consuming it.
So, after months of continuously reading maltitol in sugar-free foods and avoiding them, I felt like it was about time that I got to the bottom of this. What exactly is maltitol, why is it so popular and is it a good or bad sweetener?
What is Maltitol
Maltitol is a carbohydrate that comes from the sugar alcohols family - sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates - which are all manufactured from the starch of corn. It has about 75-90% of the sweetness of sugar. So often in production of sweet foods, a little more maltitol is needed than sugar.
Maltitol is not a natural product
It’s important to keep in mind that maltitol along with its sugar alcohols family, is not a natural product. It does require processing and fermenting of the corn starch to make it into a sweetener able to be used in foods.
And a little more research easily finds a verdict …
What I personally feel is misleading, is how these ‘health’ products claim to be sugar free when clearly they’re not. While powdered maltitol has a lower glycemic index (36) than cane sugar (60), it’s glycemic index is still not THAT low. And maltitol syrup actually has a very high glycemic index of 52.
I also don’t think you can class maltitol as a beneficial or health food like you can with natural sweeteners, considering maltitol is a highly processed food source that contains little nutrients, or even no nutritients at all. I was not able to find a single source on the web that listed the nutritional value of maltitol. So I’m assuming, like refined cane sugar, maltitol is an empty carboydrate that contains no nutritional value at all.
I hate the idea of putting anything into my body that contains no nutritional value. My body is going to have to go through all of that hard work and energy digesting the ‘food’ for nothing in return.
Maltitol also very slowly absorbs into the body so can have a laxative effect, causing gas, bloating and in some case diarrhea.
So the verdict? Well considering maltitol impacts blood sugar, can cause extensive gastric discomfort and contains no nutritional value, there’s no way I’m going anywhere near it. If you’re really desperate for that sweet taste and fruit just isn’t cutting it, personally I’d go for organic sugar or cane sugar before maltitol.
The importance of natural sugars in our diet
Don’t get me wrong, while refined, processed and artificial sugars are bad, we still do need a small amount of sugars and ’sweet’ taste in our diet to be healthy. However, these sugars and this sweet taste needs to come from natural sources that are full of beneficial nutrients - like raw honey, maple syrup, agave and of course, fresh fruits.