Making dairy healthier

As the health and wellness trend escalates, food manufacturers face the challenge of providing healthier alternatives to existing foods and developing new, functional products that satisfy the consumer palette.

The high fat and sugar content in many dairy products plays a major role in the product’s mouth feel and how it is perceived by consumers.

In order to comply with the healthy eating guidelines dictated by govern­ment and the World Health Organisa­tion, however, the fat and sugar content of dairy products can be reduced and made even healthier.

Specialty carbohydrates such as Litesse polydextrose, lactitol, xylitol and fructose not only lower the ener­gy density of dairy products, by replac­ing fat and added sugar, but reduce the glycaemic index or glycaemic response of these products.

While Litesse is already widely used in dairy products and fructose is often used in dairy-based beverages, lacitol is carving a niche within the reduced sugar/energy ice cream sector.

Reducing fat, maintaining taste

The application of Litesse in skimmed milk, or skimmed milk-based beverages, can mimic the creamy mouth feel and full-bodied sensory experience associated with semi-skimmed or full-cream milk.

This premium quality, specialty carbohydrate offers a wide range of physiological and functional benefits, being prebiotic, containing a low ener­gy value (5kJ/gram), 90% dietry fibre and having a low glycaemic index.

Litesse can be easily dissolved in water and is tasteless, colourless and stable in low pH, high temperatures and in storage for long periods.

Sugar alternatives

While fat in ice cream contributes to its creamy mouth feel, sugar in ice cream modifies its texture and improves palatability, enhancing flavour and sweetness.

Ice cream can be made less energy dense, however, by altering its fat and sugar content without compromising appearance or taste.

Litesse can be used in ice cream to impart the full-bodied texture and mouth feel synonymous with high-fat varieties, while also acting as a glucose syrup substi­tute, reducing ice cream’s sugar content.

Lactitol, a sugar-alcohol manufactured from lactose, can also be added to ice cream to reduce its high sugar content.

It does not contain any sugars, has a low glycaemic index, low energy density (10kJ/gram) and is an emerging prebiotic.

Containing similar properties to sucrose, lactitol can replace sucrose in ice cream with­out altering its texture, enabling the ice cream to have the same hardness and scoopability as a full-sugar ice cream.

In fact, sensoric studies comparing ice cream manufactured with lactitol to that made with sucrose or sorbitol, a common sugar substitute, showed the ice cream made with lactitol had greater creamy and milky flavour notes.


As is often the case with sugar alternatives, the sweetness levels of both Litesse and lactitol need to be compensated by substi­tutes such as non-calorie, high intensity sweeteners.

These alternative sugars can be as sweet, or sweeter than sucrose, without containing its high energy levels.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar-alcohol with an energy density of 14kJ/gram and a low glycaemic index, acting as a direct sweetness substitute to sucrose when applied to dairy products at the same rate.

Fructose is another alternative which, despite being a sugar, has a low glycaemic index.

Interestingly, the sweetness of fructose, when compared to the same concentration of sucrose, is higher, enabling dairy products containing fructose to have a similar level of sweetness as they would with sucrose while using significantly less sugar.

When used in ice cream and frozen desserts in particular, fructose will result in a softer, more scoopable ice cream and will enhance its chocolate or fruity notes.

As issues of obesity and related health problems including type 2 diabetes, cardio­vascular disease and some cancers become increasingly paramount, and the focus of government and industry regulation, it is becoming more and more necessary for food manufacturers to develop healthier foods that maintain a level of flavour, texture and appearance that is acceptable to the con­sumer palette.

The range of sugar alternatives and sweeteners offered by Danisco, a global ingredients manufacturer, enable food manufacturers to enhance the functional benefits of their products while mimicking higher-fat varieties in terms of flavour and mouth feel.

This is particularly beneficial to the dairy industry, as the creamy mouth feel of full-fat milk and ice cream can be recreated using substitutes like Litesse and lactitol that simultaneously reduce the calorie and fat content of these products.

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