So you want omega-3 fatty acids in your bakery food formula, but are not sure if fish oils fit in with your product’s positioning. Fortunately, flaxseeds also provide high-volume bakers with the necessary omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids that include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These long-chain fatty acids possess a bounty of healthful benefits, which have spurred Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve health claims for the inclusion of ALA, EPA and DHA in bakery foods. Flaxseeds contain ALA, which cannot be synthesized by the human body, and therefore must be consumed. ALA also converts to DHA and EPA in the body.
Bakery foods that contain flaxseeds qualify for two types of label claims: nutrient content claims and structure/function claims. Only 260 mgs of ALA omega-3 is required per serving to place a "rich," "excellent" or "high" source of omega-3 claim on a label. Examples of structure/function for bakery foods with flaxseeds include "Omega-3s support cardiovascular health" and "Omega-3s support overall health."
Flaxseeds are available in a variety of forms, including whole flaxseeds, flaxseed meal and milled/ground flaxseeds. Whole flaxseeds mainly are used to enhance texture and appearance. These ingredients, however, do not offer the full nutritional benefits of milled/ground flaxseeds because, similar to most seeds, whole flaxseeds pass through the digestive system undigested.
Flaxseed meal is the defatted byproduct from oil pressing operations. The omega-3 content of this ingredient is low, and stability is a major issue because of the disruption in the flaxseed oil.
Milled/ground flaxseeds offer full nutritional value, and are processed for incorporation into breads, rolls, pizza crusts and other bakery foods. Buy milled/ground flaxseeds from a reputable supplier with a solid track record of quality assurance. When processed correctly, the ingredient remains stable for as long as two years in ambient temperatures. However, flaxseeds are high in unsaturated fat, which makes them susceptible to rancidity if the seeds are damaged during processing or because of poor growing conditions. Damaged products may cause oxidation, which results in off-odors and off-tastes.
In bakery food formulas, flaxseeds provide bakers with a level of familiarity because this ingredient has been used in the baking industry for years. Milled flaxseeds behave like other whole grain ingredients, requiring additional gluten to properly balance formulas.
Flaxseed’s fiber content also necessitates more water. One flaxseed supplier recommends increasing water by an amount equal to 75% of the total flaxseed use. In addition, as much as 25% more yeast is needed to maintain proof times, texture and consistency. Flaxseeds also may replace oil content at a 3:1 ratio. Usage levels vary from product to product, but one flaxseed supplier says most bakers use the ingredient at levels as high as 8%.
Problem Solver Quick Tip
When using milled/ground flaxseeds, it is important to buy from a reputable supplier with a solid track record of quality assurance. Damaged products will be susceptible to oxidation, which results in off-odors and off-tastes.