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Five Functions of Food Thickeners

Five Functions of Food Thickeners


Although the proportion of food thickeners added to food is not large, it can effectively improve the quality and performance of food. It can not only thicken food, but also have the functions of stabilizer, emulsifier, film-forming agent, gelling agent, suspending agent, foaming agent, etc., so it is widely used in the food industry. The specific functions are as follows.

I. Increase the viscosity

The most impressive function of natural food thickeners is to increase the viscosity of products, and the increase in viscosity can alleviate the gravitational sinking effect of particles to a certain extent. However, the viscosity of liquid milk cannot be increased indefinitely, which will seriously affect the quality and taste of the product.

II. The role of food thickeners and milk protein

Some thickeners can bind to milk proteins to a certain extent and act as protective colloids. For example, carrageenan and casein are somewhat reactive, so they can be used well in dairy products such as cocoa milk. Another example is propylene glycol alginate and casein, which have good reactivity under acidic conditions so that they can combine with casein under acidic conditions to form a hydrophilic protective layer.

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III. Interaction between food thickeners and emulsifiers

The main function of natural food thickeners is to increase the viscosity of the system and reduce the separation speed of dispersed particles from water. The thickening mechanism of thickeners is related to hydrogen bonding, hydrophobicity, and electrostatic effects. The interactions between thickeners and emulsifiers mainly include electrical interactions, hydrophobic interactions, and dispersion forces.

When ionic water-soluble polymer dissolves in an aqueous solution with low ionic strength, ionization occurs, so that the molecular chain has the same charge. Due to electrostatic repulsion of the charged groups, the polymer chain expands to form a stretched configuration and is combined with water through hydrogen bonds and solvation around it, thereby increasing the viscosity of water. Therefore, ionic water-soluble polymers generally have a stronger thickening ability than non-ionic water-soluble polymers. Under the action of the emulsifier, the thickening ability of the water-soluble polymer can be improved sometimes. For example, an ionic emulsifier is added to the non-ionic thickener. At this time, the ionic emulsifier can be adsorbed on the polymer chain and charged, so that it has the properties of an ionic thickener, and the viscosity is greatly increased.

IV. Synergistic effect between food thickeners

Synergistic effects matually happened between carrageenan and locust bean gum, xanthan gum and locust bean gum, tragacanth and sodium alginate, tragacanth and xanthan. Taking advantages of the synergistic effect between various food thickeners and the compound preparation method, countless kinds of compound glues can be produced to meet the different needs of liquid milk production and can reach the minimum dosage level.

V. Stabilization of food thickeners in salt

Salt, especially phosphate and citrate, have a certain stabilizing effect on milk protein. For example, in neutral pure milk products, phosphate or citrate can increase the stability of milk protein to heat treatment to some extent. In addition, salts also change the thickener molecules and emulsifier molecules to a certain extent, which affects their stabilizing effect.

In short, thickeners and stabilizers are playing an important role in food industry. It is difficult to produce various liquid milk without thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. Nowadays, Stabilizers, emulsifiers and thickeners in food additives are used to increase the viscosity without substantially changing its other properties and can be applied to a variety of desserts, sauces and soups. Our natural thickeners for food has gained many good feedbacks among customer.

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