What Is Allulose & Is It Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say
If you have a sweet tooth and you're avoiding ingredients that add calories to your dishes and drinks, surely you have explored sugar alternatives. From sucralose to stevia, finding options that add sweetness to your food and drink without spiking your blood sugar or packing in the calories aren't hard to find.
But among the sea of the tried-and-true sweetener alternatives out there, there's a newer option being used as an ingredient in baked goods, frozen fruit pops, protein bars and even sweet tea. Allulose is becoming the new darling of the sugar alternative world, thanks to its ability to bake and cook like sugar without contributing to overall calories in these dishes.
What Is Allulose?
Allulose is a type of sugar substitute, or a substance that sweetens the flavor of food or drink without contributing added sugar or calories. These alternatives can be either synthetic (e.g., sucralose) or natural (e.g., stevia).
Allulose is a categorized as a "rare sugar." These are monosaccharides (simple sugars) that are found naturally in foods. For instance, there is allulose in molasses, maple syrup, raisins and figs. Rare sugars have slight differences in their chemical structure compared to traditional table sugar.
Allulose packs two-thirds the sweetness of sugar with very minimal calories, according to a review in Nutrition Reviews. Unlike the 4 calories each gram of sugar provides, allulose contains 0.4 calories per gram, notes the Food and Drug Administration. Why so low in calories? Well, your body essentially pees out allulose without breaking it down and digesting it.
Is Allulose Healthy?
It's well-established that consuming too much added sugar is linked to a slew of negative health outcomes, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. But sugar also makes food taste good.
Allulose can be a viable alternative to table sugar to help reduce a person's intake of added sugar without having to go without that beloved sweet taste. And according to the results of a systematic review, researchers suggest that rare sugars can offer both short- and long-term benefits for glycemic control and weight loss, with effects differing between healthy individuals, overweight/obese individuals and those with type 2 diabetes.
For those who are watching their caloric intake, it's important to know that since allulose has so few calories, it's not counted as "added sugars," allowing people to include this ingredient in their dishes without cutting into their daily added sugar limit.
Along with helping people limit their calories and added sugars, consuming rare sugars, like allulose, may provide some other noteworthy health benefits. For one, allulose does not have an effect on blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes, notes a review in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. The sugar sub has also been found to blunt the rise in blood sugar levels that naturally occurs after eating a meal, and it may also lessen inflammation in fat cells, which may improve weight management, reduce the development of atherosclerosis (the fatty buildup in arteries) and improve insulin resistance.
Another perk? Allulose, unlike table sugar, does not promote cavities, according to the FDA.
Allulose Side Effects
Sugar alternatives can be a lifesaver for people who enjoy sweet tastes but are trying to manage their blood sugar or caloric intake. But along with the positives that many of these choices offer, there are some downsides to consider. Some sugar alternatives, such as sugar alcohols, are known to cause digestive distress (bloating, diarrhea) in some people.
As for allulose? While high intakes of this sugar can lead to gastrointestinal woes, most healthy adults can consume allulose without a problem, according to a review in Nutrients. The authors say that the amount you can eat without experiencing side effects is based on body weight. So, someone who weighs 132 pounds should be able to comfortably consume 24 grams of allulose in a single sitting and up to 54 grams per day. (Two teaspoons of allulose is 8 grams.) If you weigh more, you could likely tolerate more allulose.
When it comes to taste and use, the structure of rare sugars allows it to taste and function very similarly to classic table sugar. You can cook and bake with it in a 1-to-1 swap for sugar, according to Splenda, which makes an allulose product. When used in baking, allulose holds moisture, so you may also have to adjust the fat used in the recipe, swapping out butter and coconut oil for a yogurt and milk mixture and lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees, the company says.
Since expert panels like the American Heart Association recommend that people limit their added sugar intake, finding ways to accomplish this goal without feeling deprived can be incredibly helpful. Leaning on allulose as an alternative to table sugar can be a healthy substitute when you're trying to decrease your sugar intake, especially if you have diabetes.