Flax's triple shot of benefits

by Jeff Gelski
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Food and beverage formulators that use flax as an ingredient may choose to promote their finished products from several traits, including fiber content, omega-3 fatty acid content or gluten-free.

“Flaxseed is an excellent fit for gluten-free sweet baked goods, cereals, granola bars, tortillas and pizza crusts because of its high nutritional value, as well as its functional properties,” said Marilyn Stieve, business development manager, flax, Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, Wis. “Many consumers are seeking to increase their intake of omega-3 and fiber, which are both found in flaxseed in high quantities.”

Flax is finding its way into more product categories also. Bean Brand Foods, Austin, Texas, uses whole brown flaxseeds in its Beanitos Pinto Bean & Flax Chips. The product offers more than 600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 5 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein per 1-oz serving. The chips are free of gluten, wheat and soy. General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, this year launched Total Plus Omega-3s cereal that contains 160 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid, per serving.

Enreco, Newton, Wis., offers Flax-It! flaxseed nuggets for use in such applications as baking ingredients and seasonings, cereal, nutrition bars, salad toppings, yogurt and ice cream.

“Flax as a source of omega-3 is easily incorporated into both foods and beverages,” said Kelley Fitzpatrick, director, health and nutrition for Flax Canada 2015. “Flax has been valued for decades by the bakery sector for its appearance and versatility and the nutty flavor it imparts in food products. The interest in antioxidants and lignans, as well as flax’s high quality protein and fiber, is increasing the use of the seed in different food applications. Flax is now found in prepared foods such as pasta and pizza crusts, smoothie beverages, dairy applications such as yogurt, nutrition and weight management bars, salad dressings, and breading systems.”

Flax Canada 2015, a national initiative, seeks to identify and utilize value-added opportunities for flax.

Glanbia Nutritionals earlier this year appointed Ms. Stieve as business development manager. She is responsible for developing commercial opportunities for flaxseed solutions. The company offers the OptiSol 5000 series of functional flax ingredients.

“The flax-based origin of OptiSol 5000 allows manufacturers to increase nutritional value with omega-3s while

remaining vegetarian-friendly,” Ms. Stieve said. “OptiSol 5000 is also high in fiber and is a source of lignans, a type of antioxidant linked with the potential to reduce the risk of cancer.”

Flax also offers functional benefits.

“Flaxseed contains a unique gum matrix,” Ms. Stieve said. “Using a proprietary processing system, Glanbia Nutritionals has developed a patented method to functionalize these gum systems, which led to the development of the OptiSol range. OptiSol 5000 may be used to replace hydrocolloid systems in food applications, including gluten-free baked goods to improve texture, in tortillas, sheeted doughs, sweet baked goods and whole wheat bread.”

Much of the flax produced in the United States is grown in North Dakota while Canada also is a significant supplier. The Canadian flaxseed supply this year is about 30% lower than last year, mostly because of lower production, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said Oct. 14.

“Prices are expected to be sharply higher on tight Canadian supplies and strong world usage,” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said.

Still, companies may find flax a beneficial addition to value-added products.

“Flax possesses an active antioxidant system that includes lignans, phenolic acids, anthocyanin pigments, several flavonols and flavones, and phytic acid,” Ms. Fitzpatrick said. “Reputable flax companies are able to guarantee stability of two years for milled flax that has been properly processed. Appropriate milling techniques can also prevent problems with texture and negative mouthfeel attributes. Ensuring adequate moisture levels in products using flax is critical due to high levels of fiber present in the seed.”

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