History lessons

by Jeff Gelski
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They may sound like new ideas for food and beverage applications, but several sources of dietary fiber have ancient histories. Humans have consumed fiber sources such as chia seed, quinoa and barley for thousands of years.

Their potential in foods and beverages was a focus of the presentation "Lesser known dietary fibers, properties and sources" delivered June 30 during the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Food Expo in New Orleans.

"Each and every culture has different shapes and forms of fiber," said Dr. Sakharam K. Patil, Ph.D., president of S.K. Patil and Associates, a consulting company based in Munster, Ind. "Lesser-known fibers can bring in additional physiology benefits, and of course functional benefits and textural properties impacted by cultural issues."

Availability and cost issues with more common sources of dietary fiber are bringing lesser-known dietary fibers to the forefront, he said. Local sources of dietary fiber may aid in sustainability efforts and improve the cost structure for making such items as bread in the United States, tortillas in South America and pita bread in African or Arabian countries.

"Unless you put dietary fiber in mainstream products using local sources, you cannot meet demand," he said. "It will take a combination of solutions, not just one particular fiber or 10 fibers."

The food industry will need to match consumer preferences with research, availability and benefits of these dietary fibers, Mr. Patil said. A key characteristic might be whether the fibers cause much discomfort or bloating in consumers. The slower they ferment in the lower gastrointestinal system, or colon, the less discomfort they will cause.


Studying ancient cultures

The food and beverage industry may learn from ancient cultures, Mr. Patil said.

"We do not have to go back to our evolutionary past, but we can learn from it and still meet today’s sophisticated, diversified ethnic tastes," Mr. Patil said.

Hundreds of years ago Aztec traders and warriors in Mexico ate chia seeds for their nutritional value on long marches, according to Navitas Naturals, Novato, Calif. Both raw chia seeds and chia powder offer 5 grams of fiber per 15-gram serving, according to the company. The grain also includes alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and phytosterols, Mr. Patil said.

"This thing is the world’s richest grain, I believe," he said.

Mr. Patil said chia seed already may work in applications for cereals and snacks while other potential applications are under development.

Formulators also may investigate adding quinoa to cereals, pasta, soups and chips. Populations in South America, including the Incas, have eaten quinoa as a dietary fiber source since about 3,000 B.C. Quinoa includes prebiotic fiber and essential amino acids and may help with laxation, Mr. Patil said. ConAgra Mills, Omaha, offers quinoa in its Ancient Grains line.

Barley’s history in the human food chain may go back 10,000 years. As recently as two years ago its value as a source of fiber gained validation when the Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling that allows foods containing barley to have a claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Mr. Patil pointed out Sustagrain, an identity-preserved waxy, hulless barley from ConAgra Mills, is 30% fiber, including soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

According to ConAgra Mills, 8 grams of Sustagrain barley delivers 2.4 grams of dietary fiber and more than 0.75 grams of beta-glucan. Formulating with Sustagrain barley may help products meet the criteria for an F.D.A.-approved heart-health claim specific for beta-glucan soluble fiber from barley.

Replacing 7% of the durum semolina in pasta with Sustagrain barley may provide a good source of fiber claim, according to ConAgra Mills, while replacing 25% may qualify the pasta for an excellent source of fiber claim. In beverages, adding 9 grams of Sustagrain barley is enough to obtain a good source of fiber claim and also provide 0.75 grams of beta-glucan for a heart health claim.

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers Barliv barley betafiber, a natural soluble fiber from whole grain barley that may be used in foods and beverages. The F.D.A. on Feb. 25 authorized expansion of a soluble fiber heart health claim to include barley betafiber as an eligible source of soluble fiber.

A new patented technology allows for the inclusion of barley, chia, quinoa and other forms of ancient grain nutrition in smoothies, soups, pasta, beverages, bars and baked foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in cooperation with FutureCeuticals, Momence, Ill., developed the AncienTrim technology, which creates a dispersible, hydropholic powder.

Fiber on the expo floor

New sources of dietary fiber also were found on the expo floor of the I.F.T. event.

GTC Nutrition, Golden, Colo., launched BioAgave agave active fiber, a plant-derived source of inulin that provides functional benefits to food and beverage applications.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., introduced its VegeFull line of ingredients made from black, red, navy and pinto beans. The ingredients include either 8 or 9 grams of fiber per serving. They also add protein and provide up to a full serving of vegetables in such applications as baked foods, snacks, dips, salads and dry soup mixes.

Novel sources

Listed are some fiber sources discussed in the presentation "Lesser known dietary fibers, properties and sources" delivered June 30 during the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Food Expo in New Orleans:

Sweet potato greens: Researchers at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., are examining sweet potato greens (Ipomoea batatas) for their high dietary fiber content. They are a byproduct of sweet potato roots, but they are a significant food crop in China, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands. Sweet potato greens have a spinach-like texture.

 Fenugreek: Emerald Seed Products, Inc., Avonlea, Sask., has developed technology to isolate the soluble fiber of fenugreek, a medicinal herb, and make it available for use in supplements and functional foods. It also may work as a hydrocolloid. Previously, bitterness, odor and high cost kept fenugreek from being used as a soluble fiber.

 Dates: Dates are a big part of diets in the United Arab Emirates. Using dates to replace 10% to 30% of the flour in bread, cookies and muffins may add fiber, said Dr. Isameldin B. Hashim, Ph.D., of United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain. The addition of date fiber may cause the volume of a loaf of bread to shrink.

Try to add insoluble and soluble forms of fiber

When deciding upon a fiber source, food and beverage formulators should avoid thinking of insoluble vs. soluble and instead think insoluble and soluble.

"You need to combine various sources of fiber," said Cathy Peterson, assistant vice–president of applications for Sunopta Ingredients Group, Bedford, Mass. "There’s no one perfect fiber out there, whether insoluble or soluble."

Insoluble fiber generally is found in the whole plant cell wall material derived from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, said Dr. Sakharam K. Patil, Ph.D., president of S.K. Patil and Associates, a consulting company based in Munster, Ind. Insoluble fiber is not digested in the gastrointestinal tract and not fermented in the colon. It may give consumers a feeling of satiety or being full and also aid in alleviating constipation.

Soluble fibers are fermented in the colon and may have prebiotic effects or feed good bacteria in the colon, Mr. Patil said. Soluble fibers may provide functional benefits such as texture and water-holding capacities. Inulin and fructooligosaccharides include soluble fiber as do hydrocolloids such as gums.

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