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Why You Should Avoid Maltodextrin (and Viable Alternatives)

Maltodextrin is an additive commonly found in processed foods. It's made from starch and used as a thickener, filler, and sweetener in various products. However, despite its widespread use, maltodextrin can pose some health risks that we should be aware of.

Why You Should Avoid Maltodextrin (and Viable Alternatives)

First off, maltodextrin is highly processed, which means it undergoes significant changes before ending up in our food. This processing can remove essential nutrients and fiber, leaving us with empty calories. Not great, right?

For individuals like me who have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and struggle with blood sugar issues, maltodextrin can be particularly problematic. This additive can cause spikes in blood sugar levels due to its high glycemic index, potentially worsening PCOS symptoms or affecting your overall well-being.

Now, here's the tricky part – avoiding maltodextrin isn't always a piece of cake. It's often hidden among a long list of ingredients, making it necessary to read labels carefully. But trust me, it's worth the extra effort to protect your health, especially if you're dealing with PCOS and related concerns.

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What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a white powder that is made from corn, rice, or potato starch. It is a type of carbohydrate that is easily digestible and is commonly used as a food additive. Maltodextrin is used as a thickener, filler, and sweetener in many processed foods.

Ear of rice
Source: Pixabay

Maltodextrin is used in a variety of products, including baked goods, candy, canned fruits, desserts, sauces, and soups. It's also commonly used in sports supplements, energy drinks, and meal replacement shakes. Maltodextrin is often used in these products because it is cheap, easy to use, and has a long shelf life.

Why Should You Avoid Maltodextrin?

While maltodextrin is commonly used in many processed foods and supplements, it is not a healthy ingredient. Here are some of the reasons why you should avoid maltodextrin:

1. Maltodextrin has a high glycemic index

Maltodextrin is a high glycemic index (GI) food, which means that it's rapidly converted into glucose (sugar) in the body. This can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with PCOS or diabetes (and pre-diabetes). High GI foods have also been linked to an increased risk of obesity and other health problems.

2. Maltodextrin is highly processed

Maltodextrin is a highly processed ingredient that is made from starch. During the processing of maltodextrin, it is stripped of many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This makes maltodextrin a nutrient-poor ingredient.

3. Maltodextrin may contain GMOs

The majority of the corn and soybean crops in the United States are genetically modified (GMO) to resist pests and herbicides. This means that if maltodextrin is made from corn or soy, it may contain GMOs. While the long-term effects of GMOs on human health are still unknown, some studies have suggested that GMOs may be linked to health problems.

GMO stop sign
Source: Pixabay

4. Maltodextrin may be contaminated with harmful substances

Maltodextrin is often made from corn, which is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides. This means that maltodextrin may be contaminated with harmful substances, including pesticides and heavy metals. These contaminants can be harmful to human health and can cause a range of health problems.

Viable Alternatives to Maltodextrin

So, what are some alternatives to maltodextrin? Thankfully, there are several healthier options available. Natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract can provide a similar level of sweetness without the potential negative effects on blood sugar. Additionally, opting for whole, unprocessed foods and homemade meals can help reduce our exposure to additives like maltodextrin. 

Here are some of the best alternatives to maltodextrin for a healthy lifestyle:

1. Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It's an alternative to sugar that tastes very sweet but has zero calories. Many people use stevia to sweeten their food and drinks without worrying about excess calories or blood sugar spikes

Just be careful because many stevia sweeteners on the market also contain maltodextrin along with erythritol (a sugar alcohol that is harsh on the digestive system). This is one I use personally; it only contains 100% pure stevia with no added ingredients.

Stevia leaf plant
Source: All Free Download

2. Raw Honey

Raw honey is a type of honey that hasn't been heated, pasteurized, or processed in any way. It's taken straight from the hive and contains all of its natural goodness. Raw honey is rich in antioxidants, enzymes, and nutrients that can provide potential health benefits. People often enjoy raw honey as a natural sweetener or use it for its potential antibacterial and soothing properties.

3. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of coconut palm trees. The sap is extracted, heated, and dehydrated to create granules, similar to traditional sugar. It has a caramel-like flavor and is often used as an alternative to refined sugar. Coconut sugar also contains small amounts of nutrients like iron, zinc, and potassium, although it should still be consumed in moderation.

4. Arrowroot Powder

Arrowroot powder is a starchy substance derived from the tubers of arrowroot plants. It's often used as a thickening agent in cooking and baking. Arrowroot powder is a natural alternative to cornstarch and flour and is gluten-free. It has a neutral taste and works well for thickening sauces, soups, and desserts. Additionally, arrowroot powder is easily digestible, making it suitable for those with dietary restrictions or sensitive digestive systems.

Australian arrowroot
Source: Pixabay

5. Monk Fruit

Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is a small green fruit native to Southeast Asia. It's often used as a natural sweetener. Monk fruit extract is created by removing the seeds and skin, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice. This extract is intensely sweet but contains no calories or carbohydrates. It's a popular choice for people looking to reduce their sugar intake or manage blood sugar levels. Monk fruit sweetener can be used in cooking and beverages as a sugar substitute.

Like with stevia, many monk fruit sweeteners on the market contain maltodextrin and erythritol, so you have to be careful. Here's one that is 100% monk fruit and non-GMO.

The Choice is Yours!

Maltodextrin, a highly processed food additive, comes with several health risks that you should be wary of in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Luckily, there are numerous viable alternatives to maltodextrin that you can readily adopt. Some of my personal favorites are stevia and monk fruit. Now, I will admit, they may take a bit of getting used to due to their unique taste. However, if you're a woman like me who needs to keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels, these alternatives are definitely worth exploring.

By swapping out maltodextrin for these healthier alternatives, you can significantly enhance your overall well-being and promote good health. Remember, making small adjustments to your diet can have a big impact on your long-term health goals. So why not give stevia and monk fruit a try? Your body will thank you for it!

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