Hi and Welcome to the first installment in the “What The Hell is ____” Series
I decided to produce this series to start informing people what all those long names are on their food ingredients list. If you have ever seen maltodextrin, sodium nitrate or red dye #5 on your label then its time to read on.
Today we start with a classic and one that I found in a favorite food of mine the other day, maltodextrin. So what is it?
Well, for you chemistry majors out there, maltodextrin is short chained starch sugar with a gelatin hybrid base. So its a sweet polysaccharide and of course a variation of dextrin. Dextrins being a group of low-molecular-weight carbohydrates produced by the hydrolysis of starch. Maltodextrin is typically derived from either corn(no surprise here), rice or potatoes.
For everyone else, for all intensive purposes, its SUGAR.
You see what happens when you ingest a refined carbohydrate like maltodextrin, your body converts that carbohydrate into sugar. So when you see maltodextrin used as a food additive, you are actually ingesting a form of high glycemic refined sugar. Not good, but it is a nifty way to get around saying sugar on a label. It is also of note that depending on the source of the maltodextrin it may also contain trace of gluten, so for the Celiac’s out there, beware.
So where can you find maltodextrin?
Well its surprisingly in a lot of “health” drinks and nutritional supplements such as protein powders have maltodextrin in them, so be sure to check your labels. You can also find it in products such as crackers and chips and as a bulking agent in many artificial sweeteners. I mean its a slightly sweet to tasteless powder that is often used as a binding or thickening agent in sauces and dressings as well, so really it could be anywhere.
So now that you know what to look for and what it truly is, you can at least make the informed decision on whether or not you want to ingest or avoid it.