Saturday, September 20, 2014

Alginates in Food: Sodium Alginate Uses in Food


Alginic acid, also called algin or alginate and sodium alginate, is an anionic polysaccharide distributed widely in the cell walls of brown algae, where through binding with water it forms a viscous gum. In extracted form it absorbs water quickly; it is capable of absorbing 200-300 times its own weight in water. Its color ranges from white to yellowish-brown. It is sold in filamentous, granular or powdered forms.


Alginates from different species of brown seaweed often have variations in their chemical structure, resulting in different physical properties. For example, some may yield an alginate that gives a strong gel, another a weaker gel; one may readily give a cream/white alginate, another may give that only with difficulty and is best used for technical applications where color does not matter.

When alginate is added to a liquid, it will act as a thickener. In the presence of calcium ions, a mixture containing alginate will form a gel. The calcium ions insert themselves between individual alginate strands and will allow them to interlock and form a gel.

A. Sodium Alginate Properties

Texture: Thermo irreversible rigid and brittle gel in the presence of calcium. The higher the concentration of alginate and calcium, the harder the gel produced.

Appearance: clear and transparent in food application.

Temperature (gels and melts): not affected by temperature. Gel produced is heat stable up to 150 °C (302 °F) but prolonged heat treatment at low or high PH may destabilize the gel.

Flavor release: as most hard set gels, poor flavor release.

Mouthfeel: lingering and sticky.

Shearing: breaks gel.

Syneresis (weeping): yes, increases with gel strength.

Freeze / Thaw stable: yes, in most applications.

B. Chemical Forms of Alginates

1) Sodium alginate is the sodium salt of alginic acid. Its empirical formula is NaC6H7O6

2) Potassium alginate is a chemical compound that is the potassium salt of alginic acid. Its empirical chemical formula is KC6H7O6.

3) Calcium alginate is made from sodium alginate from which the sodium salt has been removed and replaced with calcium, has the chemical formula C12H14CaO12.

C. How to Use Sodium Alginate in Molecular Gastronomy

Hydration: cold or hot water

Dispersion: under shear using blender, do not use hard water or liquids with calcium content or acidic for dispersion. Dispersion can be improved by mixing with sugar or other powder ingredient before adding into liquid. Air bubbles usually get trapped in the solution. To eliminate the bubbles, let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or you can place it in a vacuum chamber.

Setting: high speed, cold setting.

Concentration Range: 0.5-1% for spherification. Up to 1.5% for other applications.

D. Where can I Buy Sodium Alginate?

You can buy conveniently online at an affordable price click and follow the link... Food Grade Sodium Alginate- Non-GMO.

E. How Alginates are Produced

The processes for the manufacture of sodium alginate from brown seaweeds fall into two categories: 1) Calcium alginate method and, 2) Alginic acid method. The chemistry of the processes used to make sodium alginate from brown seaweeds is relatively simple. The difficulties of the processes arise from the physical separations which are required, such as the need to filter slimy residues from viscous solutions or to separate gelatinous precipitates which hold large amounts of liquid within the structure and which resist filtration and centrifugation.

F. Commercial Uses for Sodium Alginate and Applications in Food

There are numerous applications for alginates in foods. It is used as a stabilizer for ice cream, yogurt, cream, and cheese. In ice cream making, the addition of sodium alginate reduces the formation of ice crystals during freezing, giving a smooth outcome.

It is utilized in fruit-pulp texturization,  diffusion-set gels, protein extrusion, storage-life extension of potatoes, entrapment of enzymes, inclusion in fish patties, and use in structured beef products. It acts as a thickener and emulsifier for salad, pudding, jam, tomato juice, and canned products. It is a hydration agent for noodles, bread, cool and frozen products. In the presence of calcium and acid mediums, it forms resilient gels. It is a cold gelling agent that needs no heat to gel. It is most commonly used with calcium lactate or calcium chloride in the spherification process. 

In the commercial food industry, sodium alginate is used as thickener in sauces, and syrups. By thickening pie fillings with sodium alginate, softening of the pastry by liquid from the filling is reduced. Water-in-oil emulsions such as mayonnaise and salad dressings thickened with sodium alginate are less likely to separate into their original oil and water. The use of alginates is expected to increase in the near and distant future.

Read the details on how alginates (sodium alginate) is used in food and other commercial food applications: 

1) Used in Making Alginate Spheres

The most common application of sodium alginate in molecular gastronomy or culinary physics is to create spheres using the spherification technique made famous by Chef Ferran Adria at el Bulli restaurant in 2003. Spherification is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres which visually and texturally resemble caviar. The technique was originally discovered by Unilever in the 1950s. The resulting spheres have a thin membrane of gel and are filled with liquid.


Culinary Physics or molecular gastronomy is a method of applying scientific principles to cooking or baking. In 2007, Science Careers published an article on how Spanish chef Ferran Adrià imitated caviar by mixing sodium alginate and fruit juice into a calcium solution. When mixed in the right proportions before the addition to the calcium solution, the substance is found to be in liquid form. When expunged through a syringe, drop by drop into the calcium solution, the liquid forms a gelatin coating and resembles individual caviar.

Make tasty spheres, you can try this easy and quick recipe... Yogurt Spheres Recipe by Reverse Spherification- Molecular Gastronomy Recipe

2) Alginates is Used in Fish and Meat Preservation

Block-freezing fatty fish, such as herring or mackerel, in alginate jelly might prevent oxidative rancidity. An alginate film that excludes air is formed around each fish piece, making rancidity almost impossible. Storage with the coating also assists in decreasing the off-flavors and unpleasant odors correlated with fish. This procedure has been extended to other fish, as well as shellfish. Herring can also be dusted with alginates to assist in its canning. The film-forming sodium alginate and tamarind kernel powder, guar gum, and agar–agar may also be beneficial for shelf-life extension and curing preservation of salted and dried mackerel.

Highly water-soluble fish-meat protein can be stably manufactured by conjugation with alginate oligosaccharides. Frozen mature salmon meat can be used as the raw material for a highly stable meat–alginate oligosaccharide conjugate. In addition, inhibition of protein denaturation in the processing line is vital to manufacturing a meat–alginate oligosaccharide conjugate with high water solubility. The water-soluble fish meat might be used to develop new food items such as protein rich beverages, nutritional emulsifiers, and a source of protein for people who cannot chew foods.

Poultry parts have been coated with calcium-alginate films. Whole beef cuts were also coated with calcium-alginate films prior to freezing, by dipping in a 10–15% sodium-alginate solution, then 3.5–5% calcium chloride, followed by 10–20% glycerol (as a plasticizer). An edible sodium alginate–cornstarch meat coating was used to coat beef steaks, pork chops, and skinned chicken drumsticks to improve color, appearance, odor, texture, and juiciness. Raw poultry items can serve as a source of human pathogens that may cross-contaminate additional foods.

Despite efforts to control them during rearing, shipping, and processing, elimination of poultry contamination by these organisms presents a significant challenge. To improve effectiveness without changing processing speeds at the plant, edible gels based on pea starch and calcium alginate containing antimicrobials can be applied to chicken surfaces. Theoretically, the antimicrobial agents will slowly diffuse from the gels or coating material into skin irregularities, and application after de-feathering will provide increased contact time with target microorganisms and yield improved effectiveness.

An edible alginate coating was reported that improves the quality of frozen pork. The coating decreased meat loss during thawing, and was very useful in maintaining the functional properties of the frozen meat. In addition, no significant differences in the structures of the control and coated pork were observed. 

3) Dairy Based Drinks and Yogurt

Sodium alginate is often found in chocolate milk, eggnog, drinkable yogurt and fruit-flavored yogurts to make a smoother mixture, as a clarifying agent and as a stabilizer.

4) Sodium Alginate in your Favorite Cheese

A minute addition of sodium alginate to soft cheese spreads can prevent separation of water and oil, diminish surface hardening, and produce a better textured processed cheese. Inclusion of ~0.15% sodium alginate is adequate to thicken whipped cream, that is, to act as a stabilizer upon whipping. The manufacture of synthetic creams can be facilitated by the addition of alginate to achieve a quicker whip, greater tolerance to over whipping, stabilized overrun, and prevention of syneresis.

5) Alginates is also Used in Sausage Casings

Alginates were also used as part of restructured meat products and to produce synthetic sausage casings. In 1955, the Visking Corporation pioneered alginate casings under the name of Tasti- Jax. The casings were not successful in the United States but were extensively used in Germany. 

A characteristic casing was made of 6% sodium alginate extruded into an acidic solution of 10% calcium chloride, which was then plasticized by washing with glycerol and calcium lactate. On the one hand the casings were elastic, hygienic, and easier to handle than natural casings. On the other, likely due to interaction with sodium salts, the casings became swollen, weaker, and less attractive, and did not succeed in contracting during cooking. Attempts to eliminate these shortcomings were suggested. Extruded edible casings manufactured from blends of sodium alginate with pectin or gelatin for use with breakfast pork sausage were assessed. Sensory analysis demonstrated a preference for the pectin casings over the gelatin ones.

The quality of low-salt sausages enriched with inulin was found to vary when some of the pork’s back fat was replaced with olive oil. The addition of an olive oil–alginate emulsion and inulin resulted in a low-salt, reduced-fat product that was richer in monounsaturated fatty acids, while retaining sensory notes similar to those of the traditional sausage used as a control; this product achieved a good acceptability rating.

6) Sodium Alginate is Used in Making Fruit-Like Products and Coatings on Fresh-Cut Fruit Pieces

Fruit and other texturized products can be prepared from alginates. In 1946, W. J. S. Peschardt developed a method to prepare analog or artificial cherries. He dropped a colored and flavored alginate–sugar solution into a soluble calcium-salt solution. Following the immediate creation of an external calcium-alginate membrane, gelation of the inner part of the “cherries” was induced by slow diffusion of calcium cations into the spherical particle and cross-linkage with the alginate within. The produced artificial cherries were thermo stable, enabling their inclusion in baked goods. In fact, ~60 years ago in England, this product could be found in fruitcake. The marketable product was composed of natural cherry purée, corn syrup, alginate, flavoring, and color. The inclusion of cherry purée enabled the manufacturer to call the product cherry balls instead of imitation cherries. (How modern is modernist cooking? Modernist cuisine is a misnomer, why?, most of the technique used was developed 30 or 64 years ago like spherification and artificial cherries. Some food science experts and famous professional chef suggest that we should call this type of cooking as Molecular Gastronomy or Culinary Physics)

Simulated fruits can be effectively produced by means of a two-step mixing internal-setting procedure. The first phase consists of mixing together alginate, anhydrous dicalcium phosphate, disodium hydrogen ortho-phosphate, glucose, sucrose, and water. In parallel, fruit purée, sucrose, glucose, citric acid, and sodium citrate dihydrate are also blended. At neutral pH, the anhydrous dicalcium phosphate is insoluble. Upon pumping the two mixtures, first under high-shear mixing, then under no-shear conditions, the lowered pH causes calcium ion release from the anhydrous dicalcium phosphate leading to a gelling reaction. This process can also be executed in a continuous manner.

There are many recipes and patents that deal with the formation of texturized fruits. One example is the Unilever patent (BP 1,484,562), which describes a coextrusion system for preparing reformed black currants. In general, fruit purées offer new outlets for visually imperfect or excessively small fruit. To restructure the purée, a texturizing agent such as alginate is required to control the functional properties of the product. Novel gel systems were formed from alginates and peach purée, without supplementary calcium or sugar. These gels were shown to be the product of interactions between pectin and alginate. Novel alginate–peach gels involved minimal preparation and could be scaled up in a very straightforward manner and employed by the food industry for a variety of end products: final fruit products that contain up to 99% fruit and are highly nutritious, and have commercial potential as ready-to-eat snack foods or as constituents of baked, frozen, and/or canned foods.

Coatings based on alginate or gellan gum were used on fresh-cut papaya pieces to preserve the quality of the minimally processed fruit. Formulations including glycerol and ascorbic acid revealed somewhat improved water-barrier properties as compared to the uncoated samples. Inclusion of sunflower oil in the formulations increased the water-vapor resistance of the coated samples. The coatings also improved the firmness of the fresh-cut product, and the inclusion of ascorbic acid as an antioxidant in the coatings helped maintain the cut fruit’s nutritional quality throughout storage.

7) Sodium Alginate in Ice Cream and Popsicles

Sodium alginate is used in ice cream to assure a creamy texture and prevent ice crystals from forming. In fruit flavored popsicles, sodium alginate helps distribute fruit uniformly during the freezing process and stops them from dripping while eating.

8) Alginates is Used in Bakery Toppings, Fillings, Beverages, and Salad Dressings

Alginates have been used to produce non sticky icings, which do not crack. Alginates also successfully maintain the stability of foam and aerated structures and improve the texture of whipped sugar toppings. Alginates can minimize syneresis in baking jellies and enhance their stability at elevated baking temperatures. Pie fillers are stabilized with alginates. Moreover, better clarity of frozen and canned cherry and peach pastry fillings has been achieved by combining PGA with a modified waxy cornstarch.

Fruit-pulp precipitation in drinks can be delayed by inclusion of PGA or sodium alginate within the formulation. PGA is also an efficient stabilizer in fermented fruit milk drinks. An alginate–phosphate blend is useful as a stabilizer in chocolate-milk drinks. Another combination of pectin, polyol alginate and a fatty acid ester stabilizes acidic drinks composed of an aqueous blend of vegetable extract, juice, and milk products. PGA might help in stabilizing beer foam, and sodium alginate can be utilized to clarify wine and eliminate tannins, nitrogenous substances, and coloring material.

Dressings are in essence vegetable-oil emulsions, which also include salt, sugar, spices, and flavorings. Sodium alginate and PGA slow separation of the oil and water phases, thus stabilizing the dressings or sauces. Gum tragacanth can also be used for this purpose. Inclusion of PGA with cornstarch in salad dressings improves their stability, producing a final soft product in which the oil does not separate out upon standing. PGA and xanthan gum stabilize oil-in water emulsions in the presence of salt as a dissolved electrolyte. Low-salt concentrations are particularly effective when PGA–xanthan gum combinations are used in the presence of polysorbate-60.

9) Alginates is Use in Manufacture of Milk Puddings, and Ice-Cream Stabilizers

The manufacture of milk pudding based on a specifically treated mix of water soluble, alkali-metal alginate, a mild alkali, and a minute amount of calcium salt has been reported. A simple mix was used to form a good gel in water, which could be admixed with powdered skim milk to structure a milk pudding when dissolved in cold water. Ice-crystal growth in ice creams can be slowed by alginate to achieve a smooth texture. An identical addition can also contribute to delaying product melting and controlling overrun. Minute quantities (i.e., 0.1 to 0.5%) of sodium alginate are most frequently used as ice-cream stabilizers. Given that the stabilizers comprise water-holding properties and dispersive capabilities, they add to high-quality body properties and texture protection. Sodium alginate may react with the calcium in the ice-cream mix, thereby decreasing the concentration of calcium ions in the water. This is also useful for getting rid of the clumping of fatty globules in the manufactured goods.

10) In Making Sauces, Gravies and Dressings

Sodium alginate is used to stabilize liquid packaged salad dressings, sauces and gravies to extend their shelf life and prevent separation.

11) Used in Water Dessert Gels

Eye-catching edible gels can be manufactured with alginates. Calcium is frequently the cation of choice for cross-linking; nevertheless, divalent or trivalent metal ions can also be employed. It is suggested that the calcium ion concentration and pH be properly selected to gain more control over reaction rates and the texture of the formed product. Gel formation that proceeds too rapidly creates a grainy gel, whereas extremely slow gelation results in very soft gels. Controlled release of calcium ions can be achieved by using a suitable salt to manage its solubility and by using sequestering or retarding agents. Such systems have been the subject of many patents and have been engaged for the manufacture of dessert gels and candied jellies, fruit jams and jellies, and jellied salads and broths.

12) Other Food Applications of Alginates

Alginate gels could be useful in numerous other applications. Yeast cells have been immobilized in alginate beads for alcoholic drinks and ethanol production and in the second fermentation of champagne. Alginate thermo stability could be beneficial for microwaving alginate-based products. In addition, alginates enable the fabrication of novel fried foodstuffs that have better taste and texture and are more easily adapted for mass production. PGA is beneficial in the manufacture of dietetic dressings.

Alginates have also been used in macaroni, spaghetti, and dough manufactured goods to allow a higher rate of extrusion.

G. Chemical Reaction of Sodium Alginate

Sodium alginate is water soluble and can be mixed with many different fruit/vegetable juices and purées. When dripped into a solution containing calcium ions, each calcium ion (which holds a charge of +2) knocks away two sodium ions (each holding a charge of +1). The alginate molecule contains loads of hydroxyl groups (OH’s) that can be coordinated to cations (that’s ions with a positive charge such as sodium and calcium).

When alginate is coordinated to sodium, it’s a very flexible chain. When sodium is replaced by calcium however, each calcium ion coordinates to two alginate chains, linking them together. The flexible chains become less flexible and form a huge network – a gel. The fun thing is that this happens within seconds after the alginate mixture is dripped into the water bath with the calcium ions.

There are two methods of preparing an alginate gel. The one originally used by Chef Ferran Adria is the diffusion method in which the cross linking calcium ion diffuses from an outer reservoir into an alginate solution (Basic Spherification). Gels form when a calcium salt is added to a solution of sodium alginate in water. The gel forms by chemical reaction, the calcium displaces the sodium from the alginate, holds the long alginate molecules together and a gel is the result. No heat is required and the gels do not melt when heated. This is in contrast to the agar agar gels where the water must be heated to about 80°C to dissolve the agar and the gel forms when cooled below about 40°C. The third property of alginates is the ability to form films of sodium or calcium alginate and fibers of calcium alginates.

H. Interactions and Tolerance of Sodium Alginate

Ion Sensitive: yes, forms gel in presence of Calcium. For Basic Spherification you can use calcium chloride but with Reverse Spherification you should use Calcium Lactate or Calcium Lactate Gluconate (preferred) for optimal taste.

Synergies with other ingredients: Sodium alginate forms strong gel with high sugar concentration, weaker gels in presence of Agar or high concentrations of ions. When used for thickening, sodium alginate results in higher viscosity when used with locust bean gum or guar gum.

Inhibitors: PH < 3.7 For preparations below this PH, adjust it by adding sodium citrate but be aware that sodium citrate tastes salty and will alter the final flavor so use with moderation.

PH Tolerance: good, does not gel at PH below 3.7 so increase PH when using acidic ingredients such as lemon juice. Sodium Citrate is usually used to increase PH but it can increase saltiness if not used moderately. Acidity is an issue with basic spherification but not with reverse spherification. In reverse spherification a gel membrane forms around the edible liquid but the edible liquid itself does not gel.

Other Tolerances: up to 50% of ethanol but sodium alginate needs to be hydrated before adding alcohol

I. Sodium Alginate Side Effects

Algin seems to be safe when used in food amounts. But the safety of larger medicinal amounts is not known.

The available information on the alginates reveals no significant adverse toxicological effects from oral administration in non-pregnant animals or humans in daily amounts greatly exceeding those currently consumed in the diet. However, in pregnant mice, very large doses of propylene glycol alginate, while not teratogenic, cause a significant increase in maternal mortality. Such increased maternal toxicity does not occur at a dose of propylene glycol alginate which is 26-fold or more greater than that estimated to be the average daily adult dietary intake. 

No respect but studies of propylene glycol, made by the same investigators and is without maternal toxicity even at very large doses. This indicates that the adverse effects reported for propylene glycol alginate may be due to the alginate moiety. It is noteworthy that similar toxic effects have been observed in identical tests on a large number of other polysaccarides (gum arabic, sterculia gum, carob bean gum, guar gum, gum ghatti, gum tragacanth, carrageenan, methyl cellulose, and agar-agar) fed at very high levels. The relative sensitivity of the several animal species to these effects, varies depending on the particular polysaccaride tested, but in all cases very large doses are required. 

Until these effects have been adequately explained, it appears to be inappropriate to conclude that unrestricted use of such substances in food would be without hazard. The United States FDA Select Committee has weighed all of the foregoing and concludes that: There is no evidence in the available information on ammonium, calcium, potassium, sodium, and propylene glycol alginates that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced. However, it is not possible to determine, without additional data, whether a significant increase in consumption of these substances would constitute a dietary hazard.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of algin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with ALGIN

Algin is a thick gel. Algin can stick to medications in the stomach and intestines. Taking algin at the same time as medications that you take by mouth can decrease how much medication your body absorbs, and decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To prevent this interaction, take algin at least one hour after medications you take by mouth.


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1 comment:

  1. Oligoalginate lyase is a Saccharophagus degradans enzyme that catalysis the degradation of alginate oligosaccharides by a β-elimination mechanism. Oligoalginate lyase


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