Polyols (or sugar alcohools) - are they all the same?
Short answer: Absolutely NOT! They differ in sweetness, absorption, side effects, and glycemic impact.
But what are polyols? They are naturally occurring carbohydrates and can be found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables and are generally manufactured by processing certain vegetables. They are used by the food industry as sugar-replacement for having fewer calories. Because some of them are not absorbed, they tend to be removed from counting net carbs - and that's where you need to be extra careful! There is no official definition of net carbs, so you should always check what is the polyol used in the product before removing them from the carb count.
Most common polyols are:
The good: about 70% as sweet as sugar, but ith only 6% of the calories! Because it is less sweet than sugar it tends to be combined with other high-intensity sweeteners such as monk fruit or stevia. It does not raise blood sugar! It's not absorbed by the body and can be excluded from the net carb count. It doesn't cause digestive issues.
The bad: has a cooling effect that can be more or less pronounced depending on the amount and how it's used.
Bottom line: our first choice for low-carb sweetener! You can safely exclude the carbs from the net carb count.
The good: as sweet as sugar, but with 40% fewer calories! Very low glycemic index, meaning no insulin spike. It can be removed from the net carb count.
The bad: may cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhea to some people. It has a slight cooling effect on your tongue.
The worse: it's HIGHLY toxic to dogs so you need to be careful with your furry friends!
Bottom line: great low-carb sweetener for those who can tolerate it! Go ahead and exclude the carbs.
The good: Low glycemic index, no insulin spikes!
The ok: 60% as sweet as sugar and with 65% of calories, meaning you need a greater quantity to achieve the same level of sweetness and would be ingesting similar amounts of calories.
The bad: Known to cause gastrointestinal problems
Bottom line: it's a pass for us. While it's highly used in the industry on diet products, chewing gum, and medication (as a bulking agent), the lower level of sweetness combined with the laxative effect makes it a no-go! I've seen recommendations for not excluding it completely from the net carb count, so be careful.
The good: almost as sweet as sugar, about half of the calories of sugar.
The bad: Highest glycemic index within sugar alcohols - between 35 and 52 depending on the form (powder, syrup, etc) - as a comparison table sugar has a GI of 60, meaning it will likely cause blood sugar spikes. Also causes gastrointestinal issues.
Bottom line: skip it! It's highly used in the industry because of cost, but I wouldn't remove the carbs from the net carb count given it will kick you out of ketosis. At least part of maltitol carbs must be considered.
Now you know a bit more about sugar alcohols, so start reading labels and run from maltitol!