What is Maltodextrin?
Summer is in full swing, which means people are trying to beat the heat by staying hydrated. If you’re in the beverage industry, be sure to stock up on maltodextrin to maintain your supply of thirst-quenching sports drinks.
Maltodextrin is a widely-used sugar in the food and beverage industries. Despite being made of sugar molecules, maltodextrin does not taste sweet. It has a bland, flavorless taste, although it does have the same number of calories as table sugar (4 calories per gram).
Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate typically made from complex starches such as corn, potatoes, rice, wheat, or tapioca. To make maltodextrin, you need enzymes to break down these complex starches. The hydrolysis process uses water to break down the complex starches into simpler ones. The final product is a white, soluble powder (otherwise known as maltodextrin).
Uses of Maltodextrin
The three primary purposes of maltodextrin include acting as a thickener, stabilizing emulsions, and preventing grainy textures from occurring over time in frozen products.
The most common use of maltodextrin is as a thickening agent, meaning it increases the viscosity of a liquid without changing its other properties. For this reason, it is a common additive in protein shakes, desserts, canned fruits, sauces, and instant pudding.
This white powder is also an effective stabilizer as it retains the physical characteristics of the food to which it’s added. Its purpose is to maintain the consistency of the food, as well as prevent the separation of ingredients that are bound together by emulsifiers. For example, maltodextrin is used in powdered foods such as ranch seasoning packets to prevent oxidation. It keeps emulsified substances homogeneous after being mixed together, furthering its shelf life.
Since maltodextrin is not an exact replica of sugar, it compromises the purity of a mixture. While this may sound detrimental, it is actually helpful. Impurities in a mixture can inhibit crystal formation; this, in turn, stops the formation of grainy textures in frozen products over time.
Maltodextrin in Sports Drinks
Unlike sugar, maltodextrin quickly melts in your mouth, dissolves in water, and displays non-hygroscopic properties. It is also easily digestible and has a high glycemic index, which means your body can easily convert it to energy quickly. This combination makes maltodextrin the preferred choice in sports drinks.
Sports nutrition products often contain maltodextrin to ensure sustained energy while exercising and to replenish carbohydrates lost during an intense workout. It’s important to consume large amounts of high glycemic carbohydrates post-workout to reduce muscle breakdown.
The beverage industry takes advantage of maltodextrin’s unique properties: it can absorb a substantial amount of fats while maintaining its white, flavorless, odorless, powdered form. When the powder dissolves in water, it still possesses its original flavor, reduces nutritive loss, and improves the taste of the liquid.
Is Maltodextrin Vegan?
Maltodextrin is a vegan ingredient. No animal ingredients are used at any stage to make this flavorless powder. It is a starch derived from vegetables, so it is safe for vegans and vegetarians to consume.