How Low Fat Foods Get Their Texture
Pull any packaged food item off the shelf and chances are it has a long list of mysterious ingredients with highly scientific names like "methylcellulose." If you're like us, you may puzzle and even worry a little over these unappetizing words.
Why do we have so much weird stuff like methylcellulose and xanthum gum that's produced in a laboratory in our food? Texture, baby, texture. It's nearly impossible to understate the importance of texture and mouth feel to food companies, especially in an age when people fear the fat content in their food. As the American Chemical Society reports in the most recent issue of its magazine, Chemical & Engineering News, replacements for animal and vegetable fats were a $5.8 billion industry last year.
But while chemists do create these creamy simulations in a lab, a lot of them are actually derived from plants — like trees and seaweed. That so-called "natural" aspect may appeals to high-end chefs who, as we reported recently, are playing with things like gelatin to improve texture and lower fat in their own gastronomic masterpieces.
So we wanted to share this useful list that Chemical & Engineering News put together of some of those mysterious ingredients that are gelling and thickening your food. C & EN also explains where they came from: