Maltodextrin, a polysaccharide, is a commonly found food ingredient in various packaged drinks and food items. This artificially produced ingredient is white and powdery to look at. It is found as an active ingredient in various food items that come under the list of everyday essentials. This ingredient is particularly vegan and is generally considered gluten-free.
It is bland and flavorless in taste, due to which it is highly used as an artificial sugar in the food industry. A lot of beverages contain an ample amount of traces of maltodextrin. With the rise of veganism, it is important to go for a cruelty-free ingredient and is made out of natural sources. Maltodextrin is thus a healthier alternative as compared to ingredients that contain traces of animal byproducts.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin, a carbohydrate, is a polysaccharide sugar used as an additive in sweets, chocolates, energy bars/Protein bars (thinkThin or CLIF BUILDERS Protein Bars), beverages, and used as a thickener in baby formulas. It is produced through partial hydrolysis of complex starches that are typically found in corn, potato, wheat, tapioca, or rice.
In relatively simpler terms, this means that the chemical bonds of the starch are broken using water. For the making of maltodextrin, specific enzymes are needed to break down these complex starches. Water is a useful constituent to carry out this process which is known as hydrolysis. The end result is a white powdery product known as maltodextrin.
Is Maltodextrin Vegan?
Yes, Maltodextrin is vegan. Since the ingredients in this powder are derived from vegetables, it is vegetarian and also safe for vegans to consume. It has no traces of animal-derived ingredients in its making since all its ingredients are extracted from a plant source.
Is Maltodextrin Gluten-Free?
The ingredients used in making maltodextrin are most probably gluten-free, despite it being derived from wheat. Maltodextrin is generally considered safe for consumption to people who are allergic to gluten or have celiac disease. Its gluten-friendly formula is due to the nature of its steps in the processing of wheat starches. Generally, the term malt in maltodextrin can be deceptive as malt is made from barley, which obviously contains gluten. The food labels consisting of Maltedoxtrin are mostly gluten-free unless the labels have mentioned otherwise.
Benefits of Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin has the quality of quickly melting in your mouth and dissolves easily in water. As per research, it has non-hygroscopic properties, which make it easily digestible. Due to its high glycemic index, your body can quickly convert it into energy. It has proven to improve the overall intestinal functions. It also improves colonic transit time, stool volume, and consistency. Sports nutrition products are often found to contain maltodextrin. This helps in ensuring the replenishment of carbohydrates and sustaining energy while heavy exercise is lost during an intense workout session.
It’s essential to consume large amounts of high glycemic foods rich in carbohydrates after post-workout since it reduces muscle breakdown. The beverage industry makes the most out of maltodextrin’s advantages and its unique properties. It can absorb an ample amount of fat while maintaining its white, flavorless, odorless, powdered form. When the powder dissolves in water, it still possesses its original flavor and reduces the nutritive loss while improving the liquid’s taste. It has the unique property of absorbing fats and also supports bodybuilding, due to which it is generally preferred for young athletes and sportspersons.
How is Maltodextrin made?
Maltodextrin is produced by the process of enzymatic hydrolysis of corn, wheat, or any other source mentioned above. The first step consists of cooking the complex starches. Heat stable bacterial enzymes are also added to break it down. Through partial hydrolysis of complex starches, it is broken down into relatively simpler terms. That is, water is used for breaking the chemical; bonds. Through hydrolysis, the longer chain of carbohydrates is broken into the shorter chain of maltodextrin.
It can be procured from animal sources, but this method is not common at all.
Though Maltodextrin is not a type of sugar, it is used for various purposes such as a thickening agent, as a stabilizing emulsion, and as a preventive method for oxidation. It also prevents the food from developing grainy structures when kept frozen for a long period. As a thickening agent, it increases the viscosity of the liquids without impacting their other properties.
As a stabilizer, it is a commonly used additive in chocolates (check vegan status), protein shakes, desserts, canned fruits, energy bars, energy powders, ketchup, and instant puddings. This white powder is also combined with dextrose to provide an instant boost of energy. It has the characteristics property of retaining the originality of the food to which it is added. Its main purpose lies in maintaining the consistency of the ready-to-eat frozen meals; it also acts as an emulsifier in over-processed foods such as chips and fried snacks.
It keeps oxidation in check, which is very important for maintaining the products’ freshness, thereby increasing their shelf lives. Additionally, it is an active ingredient in many sweeteners in place of glucose or sucrose since it has a significantly lesser amount of calories. Maltodextrin also inhibits crystal formation in frozen foods and therefore is extensively used to keep yogurts, mayonnaise (check difference between vegenaise and mayonnaise), dips, sauces, and condiments in check
Is Maltodextrin Safe?
Maltodextrin can cause a spike in your blood sugar level. This is because it contains a high glycemic index. Hence it is not advisable for people who are suffering from diabetes or are insulin resistant. Its glycemic index ranges from 106 to 136 (while table sugar is 65). And it can get absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. It can add to your carbs instead if that energy is not used.
Maltodextrin is potentially touted for Suppressing the Growth of Probiotics and changing the composition of the gut bacteria. According to researchers, increased consumption of this ingredient can impair cellular antibacterial responses, which in turn can impact defense mechanisms, leading to bowel diseases and other health concerns.
Since it is procured, excessive consumption can affect your bodily organs and overall systems, including the pancreas, liver, kidneys, and reproductive organs. About 100g of maltodextrin consists of around 380 calories. The overall dietary fiber is zero, with no amount of protein or vitamins, minerals, or micronutrients. Maltodextrin also supports the growth of salmonella, which can be linked with causing a wide range of inflammatory diseases that can be chronic. Certain people can also be allergic to maltodextrin as it can perpetually cause skin irritations, itching, and rashes.
An alternative to Maltodextrin
Some of the alternatives of maltodextrin are ingredients that are found in our homes easily. Ingredients such as maple syrup (check vegan status), coconut sugar, white or brown sugar, corn starch, honey agave molasses, and fruit juice concentrates. If you want to opt for another thickening agent in place of maltodextrin, you can go for pectin and guar gum if you are into baking and cooking.
You can also use sweeteners such as stevia-infused sweeteners like sorbitol and erythritol, and polydextrose. Other healthy alternatives are dates since they are substantially sweet in taste and are exceptional binding agents while being a rich source of zinc, potassium, minerals, etc.
When choosing to eat maltodextrin, keep in mind to use it in a minimal way. As long as its usage is balanced, you can consume it for your own good. Its nutritional value is almost at par with artificial sugars, and therefore it may lead to an increase in carbs and blood sugar levels. It may not help you lose weight either. Overall, in essence, it is just a simple carbohydrate that you are putting into your body.
Rather than opting for this ingredient, go for a well-balanced vegan diet without consuming artificially processed ingredients. Since everybody’s body functions in a different way, it can affect you differently. The only caution is to consume it intelligently.