Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring compounds with a chemical make-up similar to sucrose (table sugar). Sugar alcohols are added to foods as a sugar free sweetener. Sugar alcohols are not easy to recognize on a nutrition label. Check the ingredients list for the commonly used sugar alcohols: erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol. These are still carbohydrates; however they contain fewer calories per gram. Sugar alcohols can have between 1.5 - 3 calories per gram vs. sugar and other traditional carbohydrates which have 4 calories per gram. Sugar alcohols taste sweet, but unlike sugar they contribute to blood glucose slowly, and decrease the need for insulin to transport the carbs into muscle cells. This is great for diabetics, and for weight loss goals, as rapid spikes in blood glucose levels can lead to fat storage, and insulin resistance. The amount of sugar alcohols found in manufactured foods is much larger than the amounts that occur naturally in foods such as fruits. Many people have a hard time absorbing sugar alcohols, and experience bloating, gas, and diarrhea. The next time you are deciding on a food labeled “sugar free” check out the nutrition label and use this information to make an educated decision.