Published on December 3rd, 2015 | by Guest Contributor
Carrageenan’s Role in Texture
Have you ever thought about the texture in the foods you’re eating? Chances are you probably haven’t because texture, as it relates to food and drinks, frequently goes unnoticed. The irony is we don’t think much about texture unless it stands out as subpar, like when protein milk is grainy or yogurt is too watery. Texture has remained under our radars because the products we buy have gotten it right, with a little help from Mother Nature.
It’s important to realize that texture is a science – it takes just the right amount of the best ingredients to develop a product with the perfect delivery of a smooth, creamy, chunky, luscious or whatever the desired experience may be. Some naturally derived ingredients, like carrageenan, are servants of texture. Carrageenan is a hydrocolloid derived from red seaweed, making it one of nature’s perfect stabilizers as it creates a more indulgent product, even for the foods that may have lower calorie, salt, sugar or fat content. Ingredients like carrageenan are what make nonfat yogurt just as decadent and fulfilling as the full fat options, providing a texture that’s crucial to both the ease and enjoyment of eating healthy.
The reason texture takes a back seat to other sensations is because most of us enjoy food first through appearance, aroma and then taste. But what we don’t realize is how closely taste and texture actually work together to create the overall eating experience. An enjoyable flavor without the right texture would be like clapping with one hand – it just doesn’t quite work; both sensations play critical roles in the final product. This is especially true in dairy-based foods and beverages, as many products in these categories are purchased with the goal of satisfaction or enjoyment, and not purely sustenance. Ice creams, whipped toppings, mousse and similar products each have a unique texture that resonates with us. They’re inherently indulgent, creamy and sweet – all of which are made possible with the inclusion of ingredients like carrageenan. Without these attributes, our favorite products would not give us the comfort we crave. Imagine a mousse that isn’t light, airy and packed with chocolate flavor in every bite – this would probably result in an easily forgettable experience.
Another aspect of texture that we generally don’t pay much attention to is its consistency, which is due in part to the fact that it has become more of an expectation than a desire. We expect our ice cream to stay moist and delectable from the time we open the carton to our last bite; we expect each sip of our flavored milks to be equally chocolate-y and rich. Through refrigeration, freezing and general passage of time, we assume foods and drinks will deliver the same texture we’ve come to love throughout their lifecycle.
From the first bite to the last, it’s ingredients like carrageenan that help our foods deliver a consistent, delightful experience.
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This post was generously provided and supported by Food Science Matters. All opinions expressed within are strictly theirs.