Welcome back to FYI Thursdays where we look into definitions and explanations of common words/terms that are found in the world of food. Today we are going to tackle cellulose.
Cellulose is a food additive made from cotton and refined wood pulp. You find it added to many processed foods. Because it is made from wood and/or cotton – substances found in nature – many consider it to be a natural substance. Yes, wood and cotton are natural. However, wood is not a natural ingredient found in cheese (for example).
The following is information taken from http://www.thespruce.com/what-is-cellulose
It is a very informative site and I highly recommend you reading some of the other articles found there.
How is Cellulose used in food?
Fiber Supplement – With rising awareness about fiber intake, cellulose has become one of the most popular food additives. Adding cellulose to food allows an increase in bulk and fiber content without a major impact on flavor. Because cellulose binds and mixes easily with water, it is often added to increase the fiber content of drinks and other liquid items when the gritty texture of regular fiber supplements would be undesirable.
Calorie Reducer – Cellulose provides a lot of volume or bulk of food but because it is indigestible to humans, it has no caloric value. For this reason, cellulose has become a popular bulking agent in diet foods. Consumers who eat foods with a high cellulose content feel full physically and psychologically without having consumed many calories.
Thickening/Emulsifying – The gelling action of cellulose when combined with water provides both thickening and stabilizing qualities in the food to which it is added. Cellulose gel acts similarly to an emulsion, suspending ingredients within a solution and preventing water from separating out. Cellulose is often added to sauces for both the thickening and emulsifying action. The thickening power of cellulose also allows for more air to be whipped into products like ice cream, or whipped topping. Cellulose allows for the production of thick and creamy food items without the use of as much fat.
Anti-caking – Cellulose’s ability to absorb moisture and coat ingredients in a fine powder make it the ingredient of choice for anti-caking applications. Shredded and grated cheeses, spice mixes, and powdered drink mixes are just a few of the many food items that take advantage of cellulose as an anti-caking agent.
Forms of Cellulose
Cellulose can be found on ingredient lists under a variety of names, depending on which form is used. Although cellulose has the same molecular structure regardless of the source (wood pulp, cotton, or other vegetable matter), how the molecules are bonded together and whether or not they are hydrated creates different “forms” of cellulose.
Powdered cellulose is the most widely used in food products and is the form of choice for anti-caking applications.
Cellulose gum or cellulose gel, which are hydrated forms of cellulose, are often used in sauces or other wet items like ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Cellulose may also be found on ingredient lists under the names carboxymethylcellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, or MCC.
Yes, I understand why some people might think that adding cellulose to food is beneficial. But is it really? Can’t we find better ways to add fiber to our diets, better than adding an indigestible agent to our food? Yes, cellulose adds no calories to our diet but food such as cauliflower, celery and apples don’t have many calories and we get so many more vitamins and minerals from the fresh food.
All of this is for you to think about and make your own decision. If our goal is to get as close as we can to natural food, eating clean, we must avoid food that has cellulose in it. Become a label reader and look for ingredients such as cellulose. As for me, I choose to do with out the cellulose. I hope you do too.