There is no short supply of ways to sweeten your food and drinks. Many women are naturally wary of erythritol and other man-made sweetener options, especially while pregnant.
Similar to many other sweeteners available today, erythritol is classified as “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, as well as the World Health Organization and is thought to be safe during pregnancy when used in moderation.
In this article, I’ll give you the lowdown on erythritol’s safety profile, nutrition, and comparison to some of the other sweeteners on the market, as well as a surprising benefit!
Is It Safe to Have Erythritol During Pregnancy?
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol, similar to sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol. The name sugar alcohol is a reference to the sweetener’s chemical structure, not its alcohol content. Despite the somewhat misleading name, eating or drinking a food made with erythritol won’t get you drunk or raise your blood alcohol level.
Though the erythritol found in most processed, low-calorie foods is typically man-made, the sweetener is also naturally produced by some fruits as well as fermented foods like soy sauce (source: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology).
Unlike other sugar alcohols, the body is completely unable to break down erythritol, meaning it doesn’t contribute any energy/calories.
This also means that some erythritol travels through the intestines without being absorbed and utilized, which can cause gas, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal upset in some folks (source: International Journal of Dentistry). Not everyone who eats erythritol-containing foods or drinks will have troubles in the bathroom, however.
Each person’s body has a different tolerance to sugar alcohols so if you are concerned about the possibility of feeling bloated or gassy, try just a small amount of erythritol at a time.
One surprising benefit to erythritol is that it can actually improve dental and oral health! Studies have shown that erythritol is successful in reducing dental plaque and one type of cavity-causing bacteria (source: Advances in Dental Research). For this reason, erythritol is commonly found in chewing gums and mouthwash.
Aside from chewing gum, erythritol is also found in some low/sugar-free candy brands, as the sugar replacement brand Swerve, and naturally in some fruits and fermented foods.
There aren’t many studies on how erythritol affects pregnancy, but it is presumed to be safe when eaten in moderation since erythritol has been found in maternal and fetal samples from normal pregnancies (source: Canadian Family Physician).
Can I Have Erythritol if I have Gestational Diabetes?
Similar to other sugar alcohols and many of the alternative sweeteners, erythritol does not cause a rise in blood sugar like traditional table sugar does (source: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology).
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your medical providers may have you focus on decreasing the amount of added sugars you eat. Your pregnancy cravings may not have gotten the memo and this is where erythritol can be useful.
In times when you ordinarily would be eating a large amount of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages (like at your baby shower or a birthday party), swapping a few of these items for ones sweetened with erythritol can prevent a large rise in blood sugar and keep you feeling well.
Another way to incorporate erythritol’s benefits is with chewing gum or hard candies and isn’t limited to only women with gestational diabetes. Keeping sugared gums and candies in your mouth (and next to your teeth) all day can do wonders for morning sickness but lead to tooth decay.
If you find that you are sucking on candies or chewing gum frequently, opting for erythritol sweetened ones might actually improve your oral health! For more on this, see our guide to chewing gum when pregnant – including what to do if you accidentally swallow it, too.
Stevia vs Erythritol When Pregnant: Are They the Same Thing?
Both stevia and erythritol can be found in nature, though most erythritol-containing products typically use a man-made version of the sweetener. When it comes to how the sweeteners act in the body, there are a few more similarities, as well as a couple of differences.
- Neither contain any calories
- No impact on blood sugar
- Generally recognized as safe by the FDA
- Stevia does not have any known dental benefits
- Erythritol is used in a 1:1 replacement for table sugar. Stevia’s sugar replacement ratio is much lower, about 2 tablespoons stevia will replace a full cup of sugar
- Stevia is less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset (ie: no diarrhea, gas, bloating)
The best sweetener to use is the one you like most, especially since stevia and erythritol have slightly different flavors. If you have a sensitive stomach, stevia might be worth a try as it can be better tolerated.
Erythritol is yet another sweetener option that is generally recognized as safe by the FDA and is best used in moderation during pregnancy. If you are looking for more information on sweetener options, you may be interested in our other articles on sweeteners including: