Angelika Maier wrote:I don't know about xylitol, I would be careful with these things!
This poster never explained herself, so not sure exactly what she meant to say by "I would be careful."
But xylitol is great stuff! I cook with it all the time, and it is indeed an ingredient in the DIY tooth powder I use to brush.
For anyone who doesn't know, xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol used by some as a substitute for table sugar (i.e. sucrose). Other sugar alcohols you might run into as sweeteners include mannitol, sorbitol, or erythritol.
Although xylitol does exist in nature - it is found in some fruits - the commercially available stuff is synthesized through a chemical process using lignocellulose (i.e. woody plant matter) as feed stock. Always look for xylitol made from 100% birch wood, and preferably made in the USA (at least for American customers). The other common feed stock is corn cobs. The problem is that this almost certainly implies GMO, since most corn these days is. Particularly if the xylitol is sourced from abroad (read: China).
Xylitol tastes as close to real sugar as any substitute I've ever eaten, with no odd aftertaste. I'd say it is about 90% as sweet as sucrose, pound for pound. But it only contains about 60% of the calories. Even better, it has only a tiny fraction of the glycemic index that sugar does. We're talking single digits! So, in xylitol you have a sweetener that could pass for real sugar in a blind taste test, yet can be eaten by a diabetic.
And the reason xylitol pops up in this thread: whereas sugar feeds unhealthy bacteria that rot your teeth, xylitol actually discourages those bacteria. This is why you see it added to chewing gums, in which it has been used for many decades. It is a "sugar" that is truly good for your dental health!
In the kitchen, be warned that xylitol doesn't dissolve nearly as readily as does sugar, though it is still great for baking. Also, eating large amounts at once is known to cause GI upsets (gas, diarrhea, etc.), because a significant amount that doesn't absorb through the intestines instead ferments inside the gut. This is common to all sugar alcohols. Not at all dangerous, but potentially unpleasant. I've never eaten enough to experience this myself, so I'm guessing it requires really large doses. Be cautious; your mileage may vary.