Baking with Xylitol – Good for you, NOT good for Fido!

Holiday Season!  For many of us this also means Baking Season!!  Some of these recipes call for a lot of sugar.  In an effort to make our baked goods healthier and still delicious, there is a trend toward replacing some or all of the sugar in the recipe to xylitol, a natural sweetener that has a few things going for it:
●   Xylitol is made from fibers found in certain fruits and vegetables.
●   It has 40% fewer calories than cane sugar and is equally as sweet so it is great for being calorie conscious.
●   It can be directly substituted for sugar in a recipe (a cup of sugar equals a cup of xylitol) making for an easy recipe conversion.
●   Xylitol is very low on the glycemic index scale.  Remember, with glycemic index, lower is better.  Xylitol has a GI score of about 10.  Table sugar has a GI score of about 60.
●   Xylitol is particularly helpful for people who have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2.  The body’s insulin response to xylitol is very different from its response to sugar.

In baking, you can substitute 100% of the sugar with xylitol, or you can do a half-and-half combo.  Xylitol will absorb water a bit more than sugar, so you might need to add some extra liquid, or take your masterpiece out of the oven sooner so it retains its moisture.  Also, do not use it in a recipe that contains yeast.  Yeast won’t metabolize xylitol so it can’t be used as a sugar replacement in yeast containing recipes.  If you are cooking something with sugar sprinkled on top, keep the sugar for that part.  Xylitol doesn’t carmelize like sugar does because it remains stable at high heat.

Yes, baked goods made with xylitol are becoming more popular.  That is good for us.  That is not good for our dogs who might get into those baked goods!  There is a lot of data in the veterinary world about xylitol being toxic for dogs.  In dogs, it can cause blood sugar to drop too low, cause potassium and phosphate to drop too low and can cause acute liver failure, coma and even death!  Xylitol is not toxic to cats, but then again, how often do we slip a cookie or two to the cat under the table?

So, a few words of advice:
●  If you bake goodies with xylitol to be given as gifts, be sure to label them in some way so that someone’s dog does not get into the treats and get hurt!
●  If you have a dog at your house, keep anything containing xylitol away!  Many chewing gums contain xylitol (it’s good for your teeth), and dogs love to find and eat chewing gum.  Eating chewing gum containing xylitol is the most common cause of xylitol poisoning in dogs.

I have a number of patients who use xylitol in baking because they are dealing with diabetes.  I always caution them about the need to keep xylitol away from dogs.  Let’s enjoy the holidays, enjoy the sweet treats, and keep Fido healthy too!

Additional Resources:

Xylitol in dogs

Tips for substituting xylitol for sugar

Xylitol not toxic to cats

Yummy Lemon Cake Recipe

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