The origin of malt can be traced back to early Egyptians, and the full value of this “forgotten ingredient” has been overlooked and under appreciated. As Americans strive to satisfy their appetite for the next nutritional trend, malt is a resounding reminder that sometimes our ancestors truly do know best.
Malt is nostalgically remembered as a cornerstone of American culture, perhaps conjuring fond memories of vintage “malt shops.” But, what exactly is malt?
Malt is basically sprouted barley. The process of sprouting unlocks the grain’s enzymes with only water and heat. It can then be further processed to produce liquid or powder sweeteners called malt extracts that are used in beverages, baked goods, cereals, snacks, and more.
Malt Extract’s Natural Health Benefits:
- Athletic Recovery: A naturally-functional ingredient, athletes are increasingly relying on malt extract-based beverages to replenish and recover. The antioxidant content of malt extract is ideal for reducing exercise-induced inflammation.
- Boosts Happiness: Malt extract might make you happy! Containing hordenine, a plant-based, naturally occurring compound that has been found in scientific studies to lift your spirits, malt may help sharpen mental focus and heighten energy levels.
- Sweetener with Substance: With a significantly lower glycemic index than table sugar, malt extract is not an empty sugar. When used as a sweetener, malt extract is a functional ingredient that serves as a source of antioxidants, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and is made with whole grains.
- Supports Digestive Health: Malt extract is a rich source of soluble fiber, which helps improve digestion by optimizing good bacteria and minimizing bad bacteria. Studies show malt extract facilitates the growth of probiotic cultures, thus enhancing digestive health.
- Promotes Heart Health: Malt extract may reduce the risk of heart problems by helping to lower cholesterol. Boasting fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin B6, malt helps to reduce plaque formation and decrease the risk of cardiac disease.
- Antioxidants Galore: Containing more than 5 times the antioxidant power of fresh broccoli, malt is an abundant source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Antioxidants can help strengthen heart health, support anti-aging, and lower risks of infection and some forms of cancer.
Companies such as Malt Products Corporation provide all natural, non-GMO certified malt extracts to a multitude of leading food and beverage manufacturers nationwide. Malt extract is emerging as a naturally-functional ingredient that health-conscious consumers can look for in many of their favorite foods and beverages.
Jillian Greaves, MPH, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian with a strong foundation in nutritional science and deep understanding of the relationship between food, body and mind, holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from UMass Amherst, and a Master of Public Health Nutrition from Tufts University. She completed her internship at the University of Michigan, gaining experience in medical nutrition therapy, food service management and community nutrition, and worked in clinical nutrition research at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Learn more at: Prevention Pantry.