Are you concerned about your food’s ingredients? If so then you might be wondering about something called maltodextrin. It sounds like an unhealthy chemical that’s made in a lab. However, the interesting thing is this chemical compound is actually made from plants. That doesn’t mean it’s healthy though. The food additive is highly processed and made like corn syrup solids. It doesn’t have as much sugar but the way it’s made causes the ingredient to have a form that’s far from the natural one. There’s a big difference between foods being safe and healthy so it’s important to know the facts about this one.
One of the big issues about maltodextrin is sugar content. This is especially important for people who have blood sugar problems like type-2 diabetes. This product can cause your blood sugar to spike so it’s a bad choice for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. In fact, this additive has many of the same features of processed sugar. It’s low-calorie and the US government has classified it as “safe.” If you have other conditions like digestion problems you should probably avoid this product. There are better options that are more natural. This allows you to get more nutrients with fewer health risks.
What Is Maltodextrin?
This is a food additive that’s made from starch. It’s added to many commercial foods/beverages as a filler or thickener. After being processed this ingredient is a white powder with a neutral taste. In fact, this ingredient is actually highly processed and is made like corn syrup solids.
The additive can provide some small benefits to food. It can improve the appearance and texture of certain foods by adding bulk, for example. It’s a cheap way companies can improve their products. Here are some of the most common uses:
This chemical compound is often used as a filler in various products and works like sugar substitutes. In fact, due to the white powder form, it can often blend in with the other ingredients well. This makes food thicker while not affecting the taste in a negative way.
Companies can save money by bulking up products without spending lots of money. In fact, in many cases, the consumer probably won’t even notice a certain food contains the additive.
The price is much lower for food manufacturers. That’s compared to sugar substitutes that are more natural. Companies that care more about saving money than producing healthy products will likely pick maltodextrin versus healthier options.
Maltodextrin is often used to thicken different foods. It’s an easy way to “bulk up” products. This is especially due to its being almost colorless and tasteless. It’s tough for customers to notice the additive since it blends in. The additive is used for products like sauces and salad dressings.
One reason companies use this additive is due to the low cost. This provides consumers with various drawbacks. For example, they’re getting less value for the same price tag.
They’re also getting less nutritional value compared to more natural additives. This could be an issue for health-conscious consumers.
Is Maltodextrin Healthy or Safe?
These are two different issues actually. The USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified this product as “safe.” In many ways, it’s like consuming table sugar, which is also highly processed.
However, this product has received criticism for being “empty.” Yes, it’s low-calorie but also includes few vitamins, minerals, etc. This can certainly be an issue if you want to pick foods that are nutrient-rich.
It’s reasonable for companies to add ingredients to their foods to make it fuller or thicker. The issue is really about whether they select healthy ingredients.
The food is highly processed so it’s far from the original state. The additive made from plants but after being processed it offers little nutritional value. In fact, due to its being almost 100% colorless and flavorless consumers probably won’t even notice this additive.!
Let’s take a closer look at how this substance is made. It usually begins with a (natural) starch. Some examples include:
These are generally considered to be healthy foods so what’s the problem? What happens is the starch is processed. It’s a complex process that involves reducing the starches, adding water, and throwing in an enzyme.
The end result is a white powder with almost no color and taste. It can also dissolve in water quickly. The nutritional value of this ingredient is based on how long it’s processed.
The bottom line is even if less processing time is used it doesn’t mean that maltodextrin is “healthy.” Like the neutral taste it generally has roughly zero nutritional value. You could say it’s not “good” or “bad” for people.
It’s important to avoid eating too much of this additive. That’s because it could cause your blood sugar levels to spike. This is especially important for people with diabetes. If you have such conditions then you should probably avoid this ingredient.
Maltodextrin and Health Issues
Here are some health-related issues related to the additive that you should know about:
1. Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight and burn fat you should consider avoiding this ingredient. It’s highly processed and causes blood sugar levels to spike like white sugar and corn syrup. One X-factor to consider is sugar turns to fat so it can cause double trouble.
There are more natural sugar substitutes to look for. These products have a lower GI level so they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike.
A related issue is there’s little nutritional value in this additive. So, you’ll be getting “empty calories” that won’t improve your health.
If you have diabetes it’s a good idea to avoid this additive since it causes spikes in glucose/insulin. Small doses are generally considered ok for diabetics. Just make sure to count it when adding up your daily carbs.
Here are some signs that this compound is causing your blood sugar level to spike:
- Blurred vision
- Problems focusing
If you experience 1+ of these symptoms then check your blood sugar levels ASAP. If they’re high then make sure to contact your doctor.
In general, you should pick more natural sweeteners vs. artificial sweeteners.
When cooking you have some alternatives to maltodextrin including:
- Coconut Sugar
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Corn syrup
- Maple syrup
- White/brown sugar
Slices of whole fruits are a better option if you want to avoid blood sugar spikes.
This stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about GMO foods. This additive is often made using GMO corn.
Are GMOs safe? The US FDA says they are but if you’re avoiding them you can still find foods with maltodextrin that is organic/GMO-free. Make sure to read ingredients labels to find out whether a food is indeed GMO-free including its maltodextrin.