Is Maltodextrin Keto? What Science Says (Plus 3 Better Alternatives)

Is Maltodextrin Keto? What Science Says (Plus 3 Better Alternatives)
Read time: 6 minutes Written by: Team Levels

Is maltodextrin keto?

What is maltodextrin anyway?

If you’re on a ketogenic diet, you might be paying more attention to the macros on food labels than the ingredients lists.

But just because something’s low-carb doesn’t mean the ingredients will help you reach or stay in the fat-burning state known as ketosis.

Take maltodextrin, for example.

This highly-processed artificial sweetener and preservative has been sneaking into more low-carb foods than ever. But it’s not keto-friendly.

This guide explains why you should avoid maltodextrin on keto, and it also covers three keto sweeteners you should look for instead.

What Is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a fine white powder added to processed and packaged foods.

This food additive and preservative is used to:

  • Extend the shelf-life of packaged goods
  • Bulk up or thicken food products so they’re cheaper to produce
  • Enhance the texture and flavor of foods

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, which means it’s a type of carbohydrate that combines several different sugar molecules. These come from the way maltodextrin is processed.

How Is Maltodextrin Made?

Food manufacturers extract maltodextrin from carbohydrates and starches such as:

  • Corn (the most common)
  • Potato
  • Rice
  • Tapioca
  • Wheat

Even though these may be natural sources, maltodextrin is a highly-processed ingredient.

First, one or a combination of those starches gets cooked down. Then acids, enzymes, and water are added to break down the carbs further.

The end product is a water-soluble sweetener with a neutral taste known as maltodextrin.

This is the same process used to make corn syrup. And you’ll find maltodextrin in almost as many products as sugar.

Where Is Maltodextrin Commonly Found?

Since maltodextrin is cheap and easy to produce, you’ll find it lurking in many processed foods and drinks[*].

As a filler to bind and thicken products, you’ll see maltodextrin in:

  • Sauces
  • Salad dressing
  • Yogurt
  • Pasta
  • Canned soup
  • Canned fruit
  • Frozen meals
  • Instant pudding
  • Meat substitutes
  • Jerky

Maltodextrin is often combined with sugar and artificial sweeteners in keto foods such as:

  • Non-dairy creamer
  • Powdered supplements and MCT oil powder
  • Powdered energy, sports, and recovery drinks
  • Protein bars
  • Protein powders
  • Bulking powders
  • Meal replacement powders

That’s right; maltodextrin may be hiding in your supplements.

Product Tip
No time for label sleuthing? Rest assured. None of our products contain maltodextrin here at Levels.

Maltodextrin Nutrition Facts: It’s Basically Sugar

Even though maltodextrin only has 5% of the sweetness of table sugar, both contain the same amount of calories (16) and carbs (4g) per teaspoon[*].

But the glycemic index of maltodextrin is much higher than sugar.

The glycemic index (GI) is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on the effect they have on your blood sugar levels.

Sugar clocks in a GI of 65.

Maltodextrin soars well above that with a GI of 100. This means consuming maltodextrin raises your blood sugar levels higher than sugar.

This side effect is the most significant reason why maltodextrin should be avoided on keto. Yet it’s not the only one.

5 Potential Side Effects of Maltodextrin

Even though the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says maltodextrin is safe to eat, you should try to stay away from it.

The side effects of maltodextrin may cause:

1. Damage To Your Overall Health

Maltodextrin is most commonly made from genetically modified corn. In both human and animal studies, GMO corn has been shown to[*][*]:

  • Increase body weight
  • Raise triglycerides
  • Harm the liver, kidneys, and heart

2. Gastrointestinal Upsets

Maltodextrin may cause GI trouble like bloating, gas, and diarrhea[*].

3. Change In Healthy Gut Flora

Your gut microbiome contains a mix of over 1,000 different species of bacteria[*].

Healthy gut flora is essential for protecting your body from harmful bacteria that may sideline you with the flu, a cold, or a stomach bug.

Your gut health also plays a role in your metabolism and weight loss efforts, and how well you absorb and use the nutrients in your food[*].

Here’s the bad news: science says maltodextrin can stop your body from creating healthy gut bacteria and probiotics[*].

This may let harmful bacteria flourish and overtake the good, causing:

  • A weakened immune system, which may leave you prone to sick days and chronic health issues[*].
  • Anxiety, depression, stress, and low energy levels[*].
  • Weight gain and trouble losing weight[*].
  • Inflammatory bowel disease[*].

Experts believe a diet high in maltodextrin increases one’s risks for developing inflammation, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s.

4. Worsening Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

Researchers have learned that maltodextrin not only encourages the growth of E. coli and salmonella but prevents your body from dealing with these antimicrobial pathogens correctly[*][*][*].

E. coli has the potential to make you very sick, and it also worsens symptoms of Crohn’s disease[*].

5. A Spike In Blood Sugar Levels (Which May Kick You Out of Ketosis)

Your blood sugar and insulin levels must stay low enough for your body to reach or maintain ketosis. As soon as your blood sugar levels get too high, your body will revert back to burning sugar instead of fat.

Because maltodextrin has such a high GI, it spikes your blood sugar levels very fast. Then, it causes a subsequent rise in your insulin levels to take care of all the new glucose in your blood.

This point is especially crucial for people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Your blood sugar levels are already higher than average, so this uptick in maltodextrin could make ketosis more challenging to achieve or maintain.

Maltodextrin may also increase your glycogen stores, or the stored sugar your body keeps as a backup. You must burn through these stores for ketosis to trigger. Adding to them makes it much harder to reach or stay in keto.

Why Is Maltodextrin Bad for Keto Specifically?

You should avoid maltodextrin on keto because it behaves the same way as sugar does in your body.

The carbs in maltodextrin are just as high as the carbs in sugar (4g per teaspoon). One serving clocks in over 15% of your daily total carb count if you’re aiming for 25g of net carbs.

Maltodextrin carbs cannot be subtracted from your total carb count. Every carb of maltodextrin adds to your daily limit, unlike those from natural keto sweeteners, which have no effect.

Maltodextrin may prevent or kick you out of ketosis thanks to its shockingly high GI of 100. This will cause significant blood sugar spikes, insulin dumps, and may refill your glycogen stores.

All these reasons highlight why you should skip products containing maltodextrin on keto.

And they prove you must be vigilant about scanning ingredients labels for potential roadblocks to ketosis. Maltodextrin isn’t the only artificial sweetener that behaves like sugar; sucralose does too, as we covered in this guide.

The Best Keto Sweetener Alternatives to Maltodextrin

These three keto sweeteners make it easy to ditch products containing sugar and maltodextrin:

Stevia

Stevia is a natural keto sweetener that comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant.

Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than regular sugar[*]. So you only need a teaspoon of stevia for every cup of sugar.

Many consider stevia the best natural sweetener for ketosis because it:

  • Doesn’t contain calories or carbs
  • Doesn’t affect your blood sugar or insulin levels (it has a GI of 0)
  • Doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste
  • May lower blood sugar levels[*][*]
  • May aid in appetite suppression[*]

The Best Keto Sweetener Alternatives to Maltodextrin - Monk Fruit

Monk Fruit

The monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, is a small, sweet gourd native to China, Thailand, and Southeast Asia.

Its natural sweetness is separated from the sugary juice and flesh to create powdered or granulated monk fruit sweetener, which is up to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar.

Keto dieters love monk fruit because it:

  • Contains zero calories or carbs
  • Has a GI of 0 so it doesn’t affect blood sugar or insulin levels
  • May trigger the release of insulin to actually lower blood sugar[*]

Erythritol

Erythritol occurs naturally in a variety of foods such as grapes, mushrooms, pears, and watermelon. It’s a type of sugar alcohol, which means it’s not fully digested by your body, that’s 80% as sweet as sugar[*].

Unlike other commonly used sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, and lactitol, erythritol doesn’t cause digestive upsets[*].

Erythritol comes in powdered, granular, and even “brown sugar” varieties.

Erythritol is popular on keto because:

  • It has a GI of 0.
  • You can subtract all the carbs (they count like fiber). Erythritol passes through your body undigested, so it doesn’t count as part of your total daily carb intake.
  • It may even lower blood sugar levels[*][*].

Look for these three keto sugar replacements instead of maltodextrin.

The Bottom Line: Is Maltodextrin Keto?

Is maltodextrin keto-friendly? Absolutely not.

Read the ingredients label before you purchase any packaged foods or supplements to make sure you’re avoiding maltodextrin.

Keto-friendly sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are your best options. That’s why we only use these natural sweeteners in our protein powders here at Levels.


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