Polyols assist in cutting calories in menu items

by Jeff Gelski
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McDonald’s USA Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., this month began listing calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus nationwide (see story on Page 14). A look at the restaurant chain’s menu and the range of calorie density within its offerings offers a window into how polyols may fit into a broad range of food and beverage applications.

Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, are available to decrease the sugar content — and thus the caloric content — in many menu items, including cappuccinos, ice cream and apple pies.

Specialty coffee drinks have become popular at McDonald’s and other quick-service and fast-food restaurants. They vary in calorie count range.

On the low end, a McDonald’s small 16-oz iced coffee with sugar-free vanilla syrup has 60 calories and 1 gram of sugar. On the high end, a large 22-oz frappe mocha at McDonald’s has 680 calories and 87 grams of sugar. In comparison, a 7.6-oz, 215-gram Big Mac has 550 calories and 9 grams of sugar.

Polyols may need the assistance of high-intensity sweeteners when reducing calories and sugar in such specialty beverages as lattes and flavored teas, said Tim Bauer, polyols and dextrose product line manager of Cargill, Minneapolis. Erythritol, which is a polyol, and a high-intensity sweetener may be added to the flavoring syrup in drinks, he said. The lighter or “skinny” coffee drinks are a potential application, Mr. Bauer said.

Cargill launched the Truvia “Behind the Bar” product nationwide this year. The zero-calorie syrup, which includes a high-intensity sweetener in stevia, is designed for use in such applications as cocktails, teas and lemonade.

Erysta erythritol from Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., may be used in combination with the company’s Enliten stevia extracts, said Ron Deis, Ph.D., director of global sweetener development with Ingredion.

“The important objective in beverages is to target a reduced calorie product through a partial reduction of sugar (about 30% to 50%), balancing the sweetness and flavor profiles and adding back erythritol or fiber to adjust texture,” he said.

Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland, offers an Erylite stevia ingredient that combines erythritol with stevia extracts. The company promotes Erylite stevia for having no calories, a zero glycemic index and a high digestive tolerance along with being tooth-friendly. Besides beverages, it may be used in such applications as confectionery, fruit preparation and baked foods.

Digging into dairy

Turning to McDonald’s dairy menu items, on the low end a 1-oz and 29-gram kiddie cone has 45 calories and 6 grams of sugar. On the high end, a 6.4-oz or 182-gram hot caramel sundae has 340 calories and 43 grams of sugar while a 16.2-oz or 480-gram McFlurry with M&M’s has 930 calories and 128 grams of sugar.

Sorbitol, a polyol, may replace sugar in ice cream formulations, but the sorbitol depresses the freezing point of the mix lower than sugar, Dr. Deis said. A high molecular weight polymer such as maltodextrin or polydextrose may be added to adjust the freezing point. A high-potency sweetener then should be added because sorbitol and the adjusting ingredients have a lower sweetness level.

“Ingredion has proposed an alternative — replace sucrose with Maltisweet IC maltitol syrup, a product in which we have balanced the polymer distribution to offer the sweetness of maltitol with the stabilizing effect of higher molecular weight polymers in the product, allowing replacement of sucrose with one ingredient rather than three or four,” Dr. Deis said. “Tests in our lab and production facilities have shown that the freezing profile of the mix is the same as that of a sucrose-based mix, and sensory testing has proven the acceptability of the product vs. sucrose controls.”

Sorbitol is popular in less expensive ice cream, and maltitol also is used in ice cream, Mr. Bauer said. When reducing calories and sugar in ice cream, formulators should take into account the balance of sweetness, taste, cost and freezing point depression, he said.

“You don’t want ice cream as hard as a rock,” Mr. Bauer said.

For one other tip, Mr. Bauer said formulators should apply polyols at the correct use level to avoid any digestive issues brought on by too high a level.

A lighter apple pie

He added maltitol may be used in the dried dough of baked foods, and isomalt is a lower cost alternative. The main caloric reduction in an apple pie might be in the fruit filling where high-intensity sweeteners and liquid maltitol may replace corn syrup or sugar.

On its menu, McDonald’s has a 2.7-oz and 77-gram baked hot apple pie with 250 calories and 13 grams of sugar as well as a 3-oz and 84-gram s’mores pie with 290 calories and 19 grams of sugar.

“Choosing a polyol that most closely resembles the characteristics of the sugars and syrups you are replacing is very important,” Dr. Dies said. “In baked foods, sugar can be replaced with a crystalline maltitol such as Ingredion’s Maltisweet CM40 or a high percentage maltitol solution like Maltisweet M95.”

The corn syrup in the filling may be replaced with a polyol similar in molecular weight distribution such as Maltisweet 3145, he said.

Roquette, based in France, offers SweetPearl maltitol that the company said promotes oral health and contributes to the development of foods with a low glycemic index. The company also offers sorbitol, maltitol syrup, mannitol, xylitol and isomalt.

DuPont Nutrition & Health, which has a U.S. office in New Century, Kas., offers such polyols as Xivia (xylitol) and lactitol as well as Litesse polydextrose, said Cathy Dorko, product manager, active nutrition, for DuPont Nutrition & Health.

“Depending on the item, the approach to calorie reduction may vary,” she said. “For instance, in a fried fruit pie, you might consider caloric reduction in each component separately, starting with the dough, then going to the filling and even working to reduce the fat uptake in frying.”

She said polyols may be used in combination with sugar to reduce calories instead of eliminating all the sugar.

“It’s possible, for instance, to set a target caloric content and then work with a combination of functional ingredients to achieve the target while maintaining taste and texture profiles,” she said.

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