The source of fiber-rich ingredients and the recipients of praise in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, beans and peas have become innovative options for inclusion in grain-based foods.

The Dietary Guidelines said, “Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients, such as iron and zinc, similar to seafood, meat and poultry. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium and folate, which also are found in other vegetables.”

Fiber remains an attribute sought by consumers. According to The Nielsen Co., U.S. supermarket sales of products promoted for fiber content reached $4,169 million in the 52 weeks ended June 11, 2011, which was up from $4,080 million in the 52 weeks ended June 12, 2010, and $3,796 million in the 52 weeks ended June 13, 2009.

Fiber ranked highly in the 2011 International Food Information Council Sodium Survey that was released Sept. 27 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. When people in the survey were asked which factors are the three most important ones in contributing to a healthy diet, 47% put increasing fiber among the top three factors. Increasing fruit and vegetables, at 70%, ranked higher as did limiting sugar at 48%. Factors with lower percentages than increasing fiber included monitoring calories at 45%, limiting trans fat at 39%, limiting sodium at 38% and limiting cholesterol at 38%.

Legumes such as beans and peas are different from grains in their fiber content, said Julie Miller Jones, a distinguished scholar and professor emeritus in Foods and Nutrition at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. Consumers may be ready to relate to different kinds of fiber, such as soluble and insoluble, and their different benefits, she said.

“I think we need to start thinking about fiber like we think about vitamins,” Dr. Jones said.

For example, she said vitamin A is different than vitamin B12.

Legumes such as beans and peas have a mix of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, Dr. Jones said. The soluble fiber may be distributed in the seed itself while the seed coat has more of the insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber has such health benefits as promoting gut health and potentially reducing cancer risk, Dr. Jones said. Soluble fiber may improve cholesterol levels.

Dr. Jones said some formulating issues may arise when working with beans. They have the potential to be allergens, and they might bring about some color issues.

Cheryl Borders, manager of soy foods applications for Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., said, “Edible bean powders contain both insoluble and soluble fibers in addition to resistant starch. These types of complex carbohydrates may contribute to a lower glycemic index and slower glucose release. Fibers and resistant starches may help provide a feeling of fullness along with their traditional role in supporting intestinal health.”

According to ADM, soluble fiber is broken down and fermented in the colon by bacteria. The soluble fiber absorbs water in the small intestine to become a gelatinous, viscous substance that may maintain normal blood cholesterol. It is found in beans, oats, barley and certain fruits and vegetables. Resistant starch is different in structure from fiber. Like soluble fiber, it resists digestion and passes intact through the small intestines and may be fermented by bacteria in the colon.

Ms. Beeby said edible bean powders work well with cereal grains. Examples of food products that might contain a combination of bean powder and cereal grains include extruded snacks and cereals; fabricated and sheeted snacks; crackers and cookies; bars and clusters; tortillas and flatbreads; sweet and savory baked goods; and gluten-free products.

ADM offers VegeFull cooked ground beans that are pre-washed, pre-soaked, pre-cooked and ground. ADM uses pinto beans, black beans, small red beans, Navy beans, great northern beans, dark red kidney beans, chickpeas, pink beans and mayocoba beans. Depending on the bean, fiber content ranges from 6.2 grams per half cup to 7.7 grams per half cup.

The VegeFull ingredients may add product moisture and act as a natural thickener, according to the company. They may replace 10% to 25% of the flour or added fat in baked foods, and they may be extruded into pasta or snack foods starting at a 30% replacement. A recent analysis of 10 clinical studies showed bean consumption decreases total cholesterol and L.D.L. “bad” cholesterol.

The Northern Crops Institute, Fargo, N.D., has done research on pea fiber.

“Similar to whole grain cereals like wheat, barley and oats, pulses (peas, lentils, chickpeas and edible beans) contain high amounts of complex carbohydrates, including soluble and insoluble fiber,” said Mehmet Tulbek, technical director of the institute. “At Northern Crops Institute, we developed several recipes with pre-cooked pea flour and pea fiber ingredients. We increased the fiber level per serving and tried to develop healthy concept products for the marketplace. These recipes were used in several N.C.I. short courses and other outreach programs coordinated by Northern Pulse Growers Association and USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.”

The Northern Crops Institute conducts educational and technical programs. The states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and commodity groups in those states and Montana fund the N.C.I.

Pea flour is comprised of 25% to 27% dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, according to the N.C.I. Pea flour has more than 10 grams of natural dietary fiber per quarter cup. Adding roasted pea flour to an ingredient mix may enrich the fiber and protein content of snack bars, pasta, bread and other baked foods without altering appearance.

Yellow pea flour is stabilized by roasting and/or steam precooking. Either process partially gelatinizes starch, denatures protein and inactivates enzymes to increase shelf life. Because of its high-absorption properties, additional moisture is warranted in some formulations. Pea fiber may modify texture, create a full-bodied mouthfeel, improve uniformity and consistency of and reduce breakage in bars and cookies. Pea fiber may be substituted for up to 25% of wheat flour in cakes, cookies and muffins to create products with up to 4 grams of fiber per serving.

SunOpta offers a pea fiber that is 91% fiber on a dry basis and has some soluble fiber, or about 7%, said Rajen Mehta, senior director of fiber applications for SunOpta Ingredients Group and based in Chelmsford, Mass. The soluble fiber in the pea fiber further enhances its softness compared to normal cellulosic fiber, he said. The pea fiber is a clean-tasting fiber, or more neutral in taste without a “beany” character. It is an environmentally friendly ingredient because of a sustainable manufacturing process, Dr. Mehta said.

The pea fiber, which is gluten-free, comes in a fine grind size and a creamy white color, according to SunOpta. The company sources the fiber from pea hulls that are about 82% insoluble and 7% soluble. The company also sources fiber from oat hulls, which are about 90% insoluble and 3.5% or less soluble, and from soy hulls, which are about 86% insoluble and 5.5% soluble.

Dr. Mehta said specific fiber ingredients from SunOpta offer specific benefits. The oat fibers may work more either as functional ingredients or as a primary dietary fiber source. One kind of oat fiber may add crunch to a snack while another one might add shelf life to a product and another might help in water absorption, he said. Oat fiber may give a whole grain product strength and resiliency and keep it from cracking and breaking, he added.

SunOpta soy fibers come in two general forms. One has total dietary fiber content of 90% and another one is about 62% fiber and 20% protein, Dr. Mehta said.

Mixing types of fiber may lead to multiple benefits in a product. For example, fiber may be used in pizza to reduce crust staling, increase the yield of meat and cheese, reduce the use of tomato sauce for cost savings and to achieve an “excellent source” of fiber claim.

Whether fiber is insoluble or soluble, or sourced from peas, beans or grains, companies should decide what they want the fiber source to accomplish in their product.

“It’s extremely important to know what your goal is up front so you can choose the right fiber to achieve your objectives,” Dr. Mehta said. 

Other sources of soluble fiber

While the grain-based foods industry has sources of insoluble fiber in grains to add to their products, they also may add soluble fiber.

Beta-glucan soluble fiber: The Food and Drug Administration in the Federal Register of Aug. 15, 2008, amended the regulation authorizing a health claim on soluble fiber from certain foods and the risk of coronary heart disease to add barley betafiber as an additional eligible source of beta-glucan soluble fiber. The F.D.A. concluded barley betafiber, like the other whole oat and barley products listed in the claim, lowers serum total and L.D.L. cholesterol.

A study appearing in the Sept. 14 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry focused on using barley byproducts to produce spaghetti. Researchers from Italy and Spain found the contents of total fiber, insoluble fiber, soluble fiber and beta-glucan were greater in the barley spaghetti than in the commercial samples of spaghetti. The barley spaghetti reached the F.D.A. requirements for the health claims of “good source of dietary fiber” and “may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Corn fiber: Tate & Lyle, which has a U.S. office in Decatur, Ill., offers Promitor Soluble Corn Fiber 85. The company used a dry version of the ingredient to create a prototype cranberry oatmeal white chocolate chip cookie that had 5 grams of fiber.

Inulin: Soluble fiber is available in inulin ingredients from several companies. Sensus America Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J., offers Frutafit inulin and Frutalose oligofructose. In the Frutafit powders, the solubility varies from low to high, depending on the type of product. Frutalose has extremely high solubility and is available only as a syrup. Cargill, Minneapolis, offers Oliggo-Fiber inulin. Orafti inulin from Beneo-Orafti is a white, odorless, soluble powder with a slightly sweet taste. GTC Nutrition, a business unit of Corn Products International, Inc., offers BioAgave inulin fiber.

According to Mintel’s Global New Products database, there were 71 products with inulin on the label introduced in 2011 through Sept. 21. The 111 new products in 2010 with inulin listed on the label compared with 87 in 2009. The top categories were snacks, dairy and bakery.

Maltodextrin: ADM/Matsutani offers Fibersol-2 digestion resistant maltodextrin. The spray-dried powder is a concentrated form (90% minimum, dry solids basis)

of soluble dietary fiber derived from nature. In baking applications, Fibersol-2 has been shown to reduce bitter notes in whole wheat products, reduce undesirable flavors of vitamins, reduce the bitter tastes from emulsifiers, add moisture and extend shelf life.