Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic sprayed-dried power. Maltodextrin is mainly a filler ingredient used as a thickener or a preservative to extend shelf life of a product. Yet despite being labeled as safe by the FDA maltodextrin is highly controversial.
Maltodextrin is a white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. Even though it comes from plants, it’s highly processed. To make it, first the starches are cooked, and then acids or enzymes such as heat-stable bacterial alpha-amylase are added to break it down further. The resulting white powder is water-soluble and has a neutral taste. Maltodextrins are closely related to corn syrup solids, with the one difference being their sugar content. Both undergo hydrolysis, a chemical process involving the addition of water to further assist breakdown. However, after hydrolysis, corn syrup solids are at least 20 percent sugar, while maltodextrin is less than 20 percent sugar.
If you have diabetes or insulin resistance, or if your doctor has recommended a low-carbohydrate diet, you should include any maltodextrin you eat in your total carbohydrate count for the day. However, maltodextrin is usually only present in food in small amounts. It won’t have a significant effect on your overall carbohydrate intake.
Maltodextrin is high on the glycemic index (GI), meaning that it can cause a spike in your blood sugar. It’s safe to consume in very small amounts, but those with diabetes should be particularly careful. Diets consisting of largely low-GI foods are beneficial for everyone, not just people with diabetes.
Maltodextrin can change your gut bacteria composition in a way that makes you more susceptible to disease. It can suppress the growth of probiotics in your digestive system, which are important for immune system function. A study showed that maltodextrin can increase the growth of bacteria such as E. coli, which is associated with autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease. If you’re at risk for developing an autoimmune or digestive disorder, then avoiding maltodextrin may be a good idea.
Common sweeteners that are used in home cooking instead of maltodextrin include:
white or brown sugar
fruit juice concentrates
But these sweeteners can cause spikes and increases in your blood sugar levels, just like maltodextrin. Consider using pureed, mashed, or sliced whole fruits to sweeten foods for a bounty of fiber, sweetness, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water content.
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