Altering carbs without sacrificing taste

January 28, 2004|By Arthur Hirsch

So, how exactly do you make a low-carbohydrate food?

"The short answer is, `with great difficulty,' " says Arne Bey, owner, chairman and chief executive officer of Keto Foods, a pioneer in the low-carbohydrate food world that by his description now makes more low-carb products than any other company. In 2004, Bey says Keto will introduce 82 new items to its line of 140 products.

At their plants in New Jersey, Keto food engineers for five years now have been working to duplicate the taste and texture of regular foods with a fraction of the carbohydrates. That means removing much if not all the starches and sugars and putting something in their place.

Usually, what takes their place is an "almost limitless number of combinations" of fibers, gums, enzymes and most significant, proteins, says Bey. The proteins are usually derived from soy, eggs or milk.

Using protein as a base rather than starch means two things: The food is going to be more expensive and it's going to react very differently to moisture and heat.

"Proteins absorb water much more readily than carbohydrates," says Bey. Hence, low-carbohydrate foods, especially the first products to appear on the market a few years back, tended to be dry and tough.

"Some of the low-carb foods we sampled tasted like flavored cardboard," says Bey.

Things have improved, he says, but he cannot really go into much detail about any particular product without giving away company secrets. The goal is to make foods you would choose regardless of the carbohydrate content.

"We're very close to the Holy Grail of the low-carb industry: french fries," says Bey. "We call them Ketatos."

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