What Is Maltodextrin and Why Are Natural Sources of Carbohydrates Better?

Maltodextrin, a white powder used as a filler in foods

Discover the truth about maltodextrin and why natural sources of carbohydrates are a healthier choice.

What Is Maltodextrin? 

Maltodextrin is a common food additive that is widely used in the food industry. The process of making maltodextrin involves cooking the starches of either corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat and adding acids or enzymes, such as heat-stable bacterial alpha-amylase, to break it down further resulting in a white powder that is water-soluble and has a neutral taste. It is often used as a thickener, filler or sweetener in processed foods. While it is considered safe for consumption, there has been growing concern about its impact on health.

Understanding Maltodextrin 

Maltodextrin is classified as a carbohydrate, although it is technically a glucose polymer. It is manufactured by intense processing. Plant starches are broken down into smaller molecules through a process called hydrolysis, before acids or enzymes are added to form D-glucose units connected in chains of variable length. Commercial maltodextrin is typically composed of a mixture of chains that vary from 3 to 17 glucose units long. Maltodextrins are digested into single glucose units, contributing a food energy value of 4 calories per gram.

The purpose of producing maltodextrin is to create a cost efficient, highly soluble, easily digestible, and quickly absorbed carbohydrate. This makes it a popular ingredient in many processed foods, including sports drinks, energy bars, and meal replacement shakes.

Common Uses of Maltodextrin in the Food Industry 

  • Maltodextrin is commonly used as a thickener in products such as gravies, sauces, and salad dressings.

  • It is frequently used as a filler in processed foods to increase their volume and decrease their cost.

  • Due to its neutral flavour and ability to dissolve easily, maltodextrin is often used as a substitute for sugar or as a carbohydrate source in various food formulations.

  • Maltodextrin is a popular ingredient in sports drinks and energy bars, providing a quick source of energy for athletes.

  • It is often added to powdered drink mixes and instant soups as a carrier for other flavours and ingredients.

  • Maltodextrin is also used in the in the manufacture of some soaps, creams, shampoos, and other personal care products such as sunscreens.

The Impact of Maltodextrin on Health 

While maltodextrin provides a potent source of glucose energy and is generally recognised as safe for consumption by regulatory authorities, there are certain aspects of its impact on health that deserve consideration.

Digestive Discomfort

While maltodextrin is generally considered safe in small quantities, some individuals may experience adverse effects. These can include bloating, digestive discomfort, and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

It is always advisable for individuals to read food labels and be aware of the ingredients they are consuming, especially if they have any known sensitivities or allergies.

Maltodextrin's Effect on Gut Health 

Another area to consider is the impact of maltodextrin on gut health. A  2012 study by PLOS ONE  suggests that 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.

The same study suggests that maltodextrin can increase the growth of bacteria such as E. coli, which is associated with autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease.

Maltodextrin is a highly processed carbohydrate that is rapidly digested and absorbed. This can lead to a lack of fibre in the diet, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Fibre plays a crucial role in promoting regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. By consuming excessive amounts of maltodextrin, in exchange for real food, individuals may be missing out on the vital benefits of natural carbohydrates that promote gut health.

Maltodextrin and Blood Sugar Levels

One area of concern is the effect of maltodextrin on blood sugar levels. With a glycaemic index (GI) higher than table sugar it can raise your blood sugar levels extremely quickly! 

This rapid rise in blood sugar can lead to a spike in insulin production, followed by a sudden drop in blood sugar levels. This rollercoaster effect can leave individuals feeling fatigued, hungry, and craving for more carbohydrates. For individuals with diabetes or those watching their blood sugar levels, maltodextrin consumption should be monitored.

The Benefits of Natural Carbohydrates 

While maltodextrin is a commonly used ultra processed carbohydrate source, it is essential to recognise that there are alternatives which are derived from natural sources found in whole foods that can be beneficial to performance.

The Nutritional Value of Natural Carbohydrates 

Natural carbohydrates, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. These nutrients play a vital role in supporting overall health and well-being.

Unlike maltodextrin, which is a highly processed ingredient, natural carbohydrates provide a broader range of nutrients that contribute to a balanced diet. They offer a more natural source of energy that is released slowly, promoting stable blood sugar levels and sustained energy throughout the day without big spikes and crashes.

How Natural Carbohydrates Affect Your Health 

Natural carbohydrates have been linked to numerous health benefits. They can help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer. These benefits are mainly attributed to the presence of dietary fibre, which aids in digestion, promotes satiety, and supports weight management.

Furthermore, natural carbohydrates are often accompanied by other beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals, which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting properties.

The Role of Natural Carbohydrates in a Balanced Diet 

A balanced diet consists of a variety of nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Natural carbohydrates, when consumed in moderation and as part of a well-rounded diet, are essential for maintaining optimum health. Focusing on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can provide a wide range of natural carbohydrates that offer a host of health benefits.

It is important to note that natural carbohydrates should be consumed in their unprocessed form whenever possible, as processing can strip away valuable nutrients and fibre.

Comparing Maltodextrin and Natural Carbohydrates 

Nutritional Differences Between Maltodextrin and Natural Carbohydrates 

When comparing maltodextrin to natural carbohydrates, there are significant differences in their nutritional profiles. Maltodextrin, although a powerful source of energy, is a highly refined carbohydrate that lacks essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. On the other hand, natural carbohydrates offer a more comprehensive range of nutrients that promote overall health and well-being.

How the Body Processes Maltodextrin Vs. Natural Carbohydrates 

Maltodextrin is rapidly digested and absorbed, leading to a quick spike in blood sugar levels. This rapid response can tax the body's insulin production and may contribute to energy crashes and cravings.

In contrast, natural carbohydrates are digested more slowly due to the presence of dietary fibre, which slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This results in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels and helps maintain stable energy levels throughout the day.

Making the Switch from Maltodextrin to Natural Carbohydrates 

If you've been relying on maltodextrin as a carbohydrate source in your diet, making the switch to natural carbohydrates can have numerous benefits for your health. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your meals can provide a wider range of nutrients and promote better overall health.

By opting for natural carbohydrates, you can reduce your intake of highly processed ingredients and increase your consumption of nutrient-dense foods. This positive change can support improved digestion, stable energy levels, and long-term health.

In conclusion, while maltodextrin may be a convenient and versatile food additive, there are compelling reasons to choose natural sources of carbohydrates. 

Natural carbohydrates offer superior nutritional value, promote stable blood sugar levels, support gut health, and provide a host of other health benefits. 

By incorporating more whole foods into your diet and being mindful of the ingredients you consume, you can make a positive impact on your overall well-being.

Why Veloforte?

By harnessing nature’s finest ingredients, we craft delicious real-food that delights your senses and enhances your daily physical performance, productivity & wellness, naturally.

No compromises, digestive issues, fake flavours, sickly gloop or ingredients you can't spell (or digest). Instead, beautifully balanced natural ingredients, incredible flavours and enjoy total confidence in your foundational health, well-being and performance.

Veloforte avoid ultra-processed ingredients and only use plant based syrups, natural sugars, dried fruit & fruit juices throughout their range of natural, powerful and delicious active nutrition.

For athletes and adventurers everywhere, our range is fit for purpose and fit for body. Created to help you #fuelbetter.

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