Having a spice or a sweetener that you have developed yourself and that does wonders to any type of cuisine you make, was a pretty special thing to have. That is the reason why a lot of such spices and sweeteners were invented and discovered.
Because humans have had such a long time to exist, some people sure would’ve gotten to experimenting. Perhaps it is because of that, that we discovered the wonder of brown rice syrups. Brown rice or malt syrup is also often referred to as just rice malt.
Rice malt is rich in compounds which are categorized as sugars and it gets derived by steeping cooked rice starch with saccharifying enzymes. These saccharifying enzymes break down the starch and it is followed by straining off the obtained liquid and then reducing it by evaporative heating until the desired consistency gets reached.
After that whole process, the result that we get is the brown rice syrup that so many people love. This brown rice malt syrup is a sweetener that people have started using because of the health issues added sugar presents.
Fructose has become the bane of a lot of people’s lives these days and that is why people tend to look for other options. Using sweeteners that have low amounts of fructose has become the norm and rice malt is probably one of the best options.
One of the main reasons behind the popularity of brown rice syrup is that it is essentially all glucose without any traces of fructose. But even with all that, some people still have issues with it and in this article, I am going to tell you whether these concerns are well founded or not.
I will tell you about the production of brown rice syrup, its glycemic index, the toxic impurities present in it, its nutritional value, and a few more other things that would help you in reaching a decision of whether you should be using this sweetener or not.
Brown Rice Syrup: What Is It?
As I mentioned before, brown rice malt syrup is a syrup that is derived from brown rice. This syrup is made from fermenting brown rice and breaking its scratches with enzymes and then making a syrup out of it after taking out all the impurities from it. It is all glucose as you already know.
This rice syrup has mainly 3 components and they are:
- 52% Maltotriose
- 45% Maltose
- 3% Glucose
Even though you might think there is just 3% of glucose content in the syrup, that is not the case. You see, maltose is just two molecules of glucose combined and similarly, maltotriose is just 3 molecules of glucose combined.
So that means, there is actually 100% glucose in this syrup. When it enters your body, these molecules break down into single glucose molecules and your body gets a heavy influx of glucose.
How Is The Rice Malt Made?
There are different ways in which brown rice syrup is made. Let us find out what those are.
The Traditional Way
Mostly, the brown rice syrup is made when a bit of sprouted barley grains or barley malt is added to a heated water solution of whole brown rice. This process is kind of similar to the production of beer wort.
The enzymes that are added to the solution work in digesting the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids and then produce a solution which is rich in simple carbohydrates that contain only a small amount of amino acids, peptides, and lipids.
The solution acquired after that gets boiled to concentrate the liquid to produce a low water syrup which is suitable to be used as a substitute for sugar. As I mentioned, this syrup is low in fructose content and even low in glucose, in a way.
It has a high concentration of maltose and the reason why fructose is less is that the enzymatic action of beta amylase and alpha amylase on starch which is provided by the sprouted barley in it. All the enzymes produce a lot of maltose when they digest starch but they do not produce as much fructose.
The Modern Way
Now a days, the brown rice syrup is commercially prepared and it has 100% modified rice starch which is generated by processing the brown rice to remove the protein, hemicellulose, and lipid from it and it has the heat-assisted liquefaction of the rice alongside enzyme isolates in the process.
The enzymes produce a solubilized dextrins solution which is done by breaking down starch and heat coagulated protein-hemicellulose-lipid complexes. After removing the impurities, only a pure rice dextrin solution remains. After that, this solution has to undergo heat-assisted saccharification that involves more enzymes being used.
In this step, these enzymes convert the solution into simple maltose. It then gets boiled until a water content of the syrup is obtained. The brown rice syrup that we get from this process does not have any proteins, fiber or hemicellulose, or lipid.
The composition of the syrup made by this process is:
- 65-85% of Maltose
- 10-15% of Maltotriose
- 5-20% of dextrins
- 2-3% of Glucose
Like you already know now, maltotriose and maltose are just complex molecular forms of glucose, so this syrup is rich in glucose as well, just not in the standard form of glucose. The amount of maltose, maltotriose, etc can be controlled by the manufacturer of the syrup.
This method does not use synthetic chemicals in any stage of the production while the modification of flour and starch is being carried out. All the enzymes are derived naturally from organic bioreactors using methods that are very similar to the creation of antibiotics.
You can find brown rice syrup in any western Chinese grocery store. These syrups might be labeled as maltose syrup so keep that in mind. You will rarely find that this syrup is produced by the traditional methods. Most manufacturers use the modern way.
Keep in mind that this syrup has a shelf life of about a year and you should store it in a cool and dry place after you open its packaging. You will sometimes find this sweetener in rice milk as well. A lot of companies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia produce brown rice syrup.
Settling The Debate About Glucose And Fructose
A lot of people are concerned about using sweeteners instead of sugar because even these sweeteners contain glucose and fructose. A lot of people consider added sugar or sweeteners as very unhealthy and the reason behind that is because they think as it does not have any vitamin or mineral content, it must not be healthy.
People even consider these sweeteners to be bad for their teeth. Even with people considering all that, sweeteners like brown rice syrup are not unhealthy because of that. The main reason that sweeteners are considered harmful is because of their fructose content.
Although, you might think that glucose can raise the level of your blood sugar by a very high amount, and compared to that, fructose doesn’t raise it much. But the actual thing is the exact opposite of that. It is fructose that will do more damage than glucose.
The reason behind that is that glucose can be metabolized by each and every cell in your body but fructose can only be metabolized in significant amounts by your liver. So if you consume a lot of glucose, it won’t cause you much harm but if you consume a lot of fructose, you will be in trouble of getting sick.
A lot of scientists consider fructose to be one of the reasons for causing type 2 diabetes. Fructose intake gets associated with insulin resistance, fatty liver as well as triglyceride levels. And contrary to that, glucose can be metabolized by all the cells in your body, and hence, it does not have the same negative effects on the functionality of your liver.
Although, with all that, keep in mind that all of this information is not applicable to fruits that have fructose content in them. Fruits are healthy foods and they have only small amounts of fructose and they are rich in other substances like nutrients and fiber and that is what makes them harmless.
I have made it sound like brown rice syrup is a great thing till now. But I should tell you that the glucose content of this syrup is its only positive attribute. Just know that the rice malt would not have any adverse effects on your liver function or other metabolic health.
What Is The Glycemic Index Of Brown Rice Syrup?
For those of you who do not know what glycemic index or GI is, it is a measure of how quickly a food can raise the blood sugar levels in your body. The higher GI of a food is, the higher it would make your blood sugar levels go.
Foods that have high GI levels can cause obesity in people. So you should avoid eating foods with a high GI. High GI foods cause the blood sugar levels as well as the insulin levels to get very high and then they get low, which causes you to feel very hungry and gives rise to cravings.
According to a study conducted by the Sydney University GI database, the glycemic index of brown rice syrup is 98, which is very high, dangerously high even. Table sugar has a glycemic index of about 60 to 70. The GI of this syrup is higher than most sweeteners that are available to you to be bought in the market.
This is one of the reasons you should avoid using brown rice syrup if you have diabetes or any other related issues. Eating rice malt would cause spikes in the blood sugar level and you do not want that to happen at all.
The Arsenic And Nutrient Content In Brown Rice Syrup
Arsenic is something that can be found in the brown rice syrup as well. It is a toxic chemical that is found in trace amounts in some foods, especially in rice and syrups. Studies have been done to find out about the arsenic content in the organic rice malt.
These studies have tested the isolated syrups as well as products that were sweetened using the brown rice syrup. All of the products that were tested had high traces of arsenic in them. These substances contained 20 times the total arsenic concentrations of those products that had not been sweetened using this syrup.
Although, contrary to that, the Food and Drug Administration says that the arsenic amounts found in these studies were still not enough to cause any kind of issues to the human body. But even if that is the case, it would be best if you just avoided using rice malt as it has a lot more arsenic than other substances.
You might also think that the brown rice syrup would have a lot of nutrients as the brown rice is rich in nutrients but that is not the case. Rice malt only has a small amount of calcium and potassium content but the amount is so less that it is almost negligible when compared to the other substances in it.
As this syrup is high in its sugar or glucose/maltose content, it can provide you a lot of calories but when it comes to nutrients, you are not going to get any noticeable amount of nutrients from this syrup.
If you were thinking of trying out brown rice syrup instead of normal sugar, you should pause and give it another thought. You should consume sugar from fruits and other natural substances as that would be healthy for you.
If you are going to be using rice malt either way, just make sure that you consume it in regulation. Make sure you balance it with your diet and do not consume large amounts of it at once. Too much of anything can be harmful and it is no different with rice malt, so keep that in mind.