What it is: White crystalline alcohol powder once commonly derived from birch bark, now mostly refined from corn, berries, and plums. Similar in appearance and sweetness to white sugar.
Health impact: Doesn't metabolize as sugar, so has no effect on insulin levels. Contains 9 calories per teaspoon, about half that of sugar. Extremely effective in preventing tooth decay; may have positive effects on bone health. Note: extremely toxic to dogs.
Best in: Dissolves easily in liquid; ideal for beverages and smoothies.
How to use: A direct substitute for sugar. In recipes calling for high quantities, use equal parts xylitol and another natural sweetener to reduce xylitol's potential bloating or laxative effects.