Counting Sugar Alcohols

granola bars, chocolate

Sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate.

When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label.

Some Nutrition Facts labels may also list sugar alcohols under total carbohydrate. Sugar alcohols may be found in products that are labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.” This can include sugar-free candies, chocolate, and energy bars. But don’t be fooled – sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate, and they still affect your blood sugar levels, if not as dramatically.

Understanding Sugar Alcohols

Examples of sugar alcohols include:

  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol
  • Mannitol
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Lactitol
  • Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates

Here’s what you need to know:

Because sugar alcohols are hard for the body to digest, the effect on blood sugar levels is less than standard sugar. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrate.

Remember that because sugar alcohols are harder for your body to digest, eating too many sugar alcohols may cause digestive complaints like gas, cramping and diarrhea.

Now let’s practice using the sample food label shown here:

Nutrition Label - Understanding Sugar

  • Locate the total carbohydrate in one serving. You will see that the total carbohydrate is 29 grams.
  • The amount of sugar alcohol is 18 grams per serving.
  • Calculate half the grams of sugar alcohol (18 grams of sugar alcohol divided by 2 equals 9 grams).
  • Subtract only half of the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate Count this product as 20 grams of carbohydrate (29 grams total carbohydrate minus 9 grams sugar alcohol equals 20 grams of carbohydrate).

When counting carbohydrates, include half of the sugar from the sugar alcohol.

Self-assessment Quiz

Self assessment quizzes are available for topics covered in this website. To find out how much you have learned about  Understanding Carbohydrates, take our self assessment quiz when you have completed this section.  The quiz is multiple choice. Please choose the single best answer to each question. At the end of the quiz, your score will display. If your score is over 70% correct, you are doing very well. If your score is less than 70%, you can return to this section and review the information.

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