I am a ‘clean’ eater. By this I mean I do not consume store bought products which are processed and refined. Sometime back I was at an Ayurvedic place going through a panchakarma and the doctors wanted me to consume milk, which I politely declined. I decide to a powdered version of a fancy packaged soy milk. What made me buy it was the attractive package, and it made me forget to read the label, which happens sometimes. So always read your labels.
I would consume this in the afternoon, as my regimen allowed me liquid consumption no solid foods. I found I was heightened after consuming it, I felt an extra doze of sugars in the body and felt confusion in the head. This of course prompted me to read the label, and sure enough the product had maltodextrin in it. What is maltodextrin? It is used as a thickener, and as a filling agent in a lot of processed foods. It is a powder that is made from starch usually any kind: maize, potato, corn (as these are all cheap alternatives). It provides lesser sugar content than the substitute being used nowadays in most products corn syrup. Bottom line: most companies use it to add texture to their products, so you may have a product screaming gluten-free, and giving you maltodextrin, and complicating issues anyways.
Where do you find maltodextrin?
- Protein powders
- Nutrition bars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Weight-training mixtures
- Beverages/energy drinks
- Any spice mixes
- Packaged baked good
- Some vegan foods that simulate meat
How is maltodextrin manufactured?
Maybe knowing how it is made will help you understand that it does nothing for you.
First, it’s a carbohydrate, in goes through a lot of processing to get to its final state. The starch is put through a process called partial hydrolysis, which uses water, enzymes and acids to break down starches from the source it’s made from. The source is usually corn, rice, wheat, tapioca (sabudana) or potato starch. It improves texture, and shelf life [preventing binding of ingredients], increases volume and flavour, and hence is used in most packaged products. So it's just an additive, with no nutritional value at all.
Issues with consuming maltodextrin
Here are the issues with maltodextrin:
- The reason I was feeling a sugar buzz (and I am ultrasensitive to this as I do not consume sugar) was because it spiked my sugar levels, as it gets absorbed fast into the bloodstream. It will play havoc with your insulin levels, so it’s not safe at all for diabetics, or anyone else trying to lose weight. The glycemic index, 130 (GI) is higher than sugar. One teaspoon of maltodextrin has 15 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates.
- Most gluten-free products include it, so watch out. Technically, it should not affect people who are intolerant towards gluten, but sometimes it may affect them and cause a side effect.
- I think the single most important downside is that interferes with the production of good bacteria [probiotics as well] in the gut, enhances E.coli adhesion and alters the gut ecosystem, producing bacteria of the bad variety, specifically the ones that trigger autoimmune disorders.
- Any food that is ‘mutated’ in that genetically modified (GMO) or plays no role in supporting the human body should be out of one’s diet. Usually, GMO corn is used.
- Your risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, allergic reactions and cholesterol can be impacted.
- It may add to flatulence, and gas build-up in the tummy, and some studies link it to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), of course, if consumed in excess.
So how do you still eat a packaged product and avoid maltodextrin?
- Avoid products with maltodextrin altogether.
- Look for products that have guar gum, pectin, stevia, honey, arrowroot powder; dried fruit to improve texture or give that added sugar that a product needs.
- Do eat any packaged food in moderation.
In conclusion, eating products made with foods that are excessively processed does nothing for you on a nutritional front. Look for alternatives, and be mindful of maltodextrin when dealing with your diabetes or a diabetic relative.
- People with celiac disease and diabetes should avoid it altogether. Also, watch out for products that might have other sugar alcohols that may not do much for you either.
- Maltodextrin is also called ‘maltrin’ on some food labels.
- Moms, please be cautious of this product in your baby's milk powder/infant formula.