What are Polyols?

A question we seem to get asked a lot here at Lo-Dough is what are Polyols?

Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They contain partly sugar while the other part is made up of alcohol. Polyols are found naturally in some forms of fruits and vegetables but they are also manufactured and added to the end product as a sweetener. These sugar alcohols are low in calorie, get digested slowly and are low glycemic carbohydrates. 

The majority of polyols contain half the calories than in regular sugar with the exception of Erythriitol, they do not interfere with the sugar levels in the blood or cause sudden changes in the glycemic levels, which can trigger conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.

This means that consuming them will not necessarily lead to the effects caused by other carbohydrates or consumption of high sugar products.They provide the sweetness without increasing your calorie intake. 


Types of Polyols

There are 7 types of Polyols.

Erythritol - This is derived from fermenting sugar found in corn. It has no calories which makes it an ideal sweetener. It can be found in pears, watermelon, grapes, and soy.

Isomalt - This polyol contains both sorbitol and mannitol and is derived from sugarcane. In the manufacturing industries, fructose from the cane sugar is separated into disaccharides, glucose mannitol, and glucose sorbitol.

Lactitol - This is commonly found in lactose concentrated whey. When milk is strained after curdling, the result is whey. Whey is normally derived in the manufacturing of casein and cheese.

Maltitol - This is another common and popular food additive that is 90% as sweet as ordinary sugar. Industrial maltitol is derived from hydrogenating the two sugars, a glucose-glucose disaccharide found in cornstarch. These sugars are derived from maltose contained in the cornstarch.

Mannitol - This polyol is found in watermelons, snow peas, celery, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. In the manufacturing processes, mannitol is derived from cornstarch. 

Sorbitol - This is one of the most common and highly used sugar alcohols. It is found in fruits such as apples, avocado, blackberries, apricots, cherries, nectarines, cherries, prunes, pears, and plums. 

Xylitol - This sugar alcohol appears in small amounts in fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, endives, and strawberries. For commercial purposes, xylitol is derived from hardwood trees and corncobs. 

Polyols and Diabetes 

People with diabetes need to watch their sugar intake and ensure their sugar levels do not fluctuate. This is likely to happen when artificial or natural sugars are consumed. Because polyols are absorbed slowly in the digestive system, the sugars are slowly but steadily released into the bloodstream. This ensures a steady supply of glucose for more extended periods. 

Polyols do contain carbohydrates but without the high-calorie levels. This is especially important when looking for supplements or diets to help with weight loss. You get to consume the required amounts of carbohydrates without adding the calorie levels. Polyols contain beneficial nutrients and minerals. As previously stated, most are extracted from fruits and vegetables, which contain essential minerals and vitamins required for healthy growth. 


Tracking Polyols

Tracking macros is definitely the most frustrating part of anyones fitness journey and adding polyols as well as carbs can make this ever more frustrating. Here is a simple and easy breakdown to tracking your macros.

Fat is 9 calories per gram, Protein is 4 calories per gram and Carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram. Therefore, the amount of calories coming from each macro looks like this when broken down:

12.9g x 9 = 116 calories from fat.
45g x 4 = 180 calories from protein.
4g x 4 = 16 calories from carbohydrates.

So working out your net carbs vs. total carb counts. Nutritional information labels on food products often include dietary fibre as a separate line within the total carb count, giving an accurate estimation of the carbs that can actually be digested.

However, certain brands or imported products may deduct this fibre count from the carb count altogether, and print only a “Net Carb” line as calculated below:

Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber = Total Net Carbs

Knowing the net carbs of a something may indicate the amount of carbohydrate that will have an effect on blood sugar levels and is therefore very handy to know when trying to limit the amount of carbs we’re consuming.