Sometimes reading food labels can seem a little mysterious. Ingredients like milk, eggs, and whole wheat pastry flour are all pretty self-explanatory, but what about the other things that are sometimes found listed as ingredients? You know, the ones that aren’t readily recognizable as food or even that easy to pronounce. Today we’ll look at three such items: Maltodextrin, Dextrin and Dextrose.
Maltodextrin is a food additive that is created by taking corn or potato starch, boiling it down and then using acids or enzymes to break the starch down even further, leaving only a white powder. This powder is then used in many packaged foods like granolas, chips, and cereals, often times as filler, but also to create texture. In the US and Canada, Maltodextrin is always made from corn or potatoes, but in other parts of the world, it is sometimes made from wheat or barley. That is something to definitely keep in mind if you eat a gluten free diet.
Like Maltodextrin, Dextrin is also a starch, but with a slightly different function. In the US, it’s usually made from corn, potato, arrowroot, rice or tapioca but, also like maltodextrin, wheat is sometimes used elsewhere (so again, celiacs and those who don’t eat gluten, beware)!
“White dextrin” is the additive that is used as a binder to hold ingredients together or as a thickening agent (think cornstarch to thicken sauces). It can also be found in batters, coatings, and glazes. “Yellow dextrin” is not used for food at all, but is a water-soluble glue, which is not appetizing at all (thank you, Wikipedia).
Finally, we have Dextrose. Dextrose is a simple sugar. It can occur naturally in some fruit and honey, but industrial-produced dextrose is usually made from cornstarch and…wait for it…is the main ingredient in corn syrup. Because dextrose browns when heated, it’s added to a lot of mass-produced baked goods as well.
Are there any other puzzling food labeling terms that you’re curious about? Let us know!