The functional benefits associated with fiber are as varied as the sources of fiber available. Bakers must realize that many sources can affect processing conditions, as well as flavor and texture of finished products.
Consumers are getting the message that healthful eating is the way to go. In fact, 68 percent of Americans are reportedly taking steps to improve their eating habits and consume more healthful foods. Nevertheless, most Americans only eat 50 percent of the recommended 21 g to 35 g of fiber per day. Fiber-fortified baked products are an easy way for consumers to add more fiber tastefully to their diets.
Bakers are now looking to take fiber to a new level, making use of nutritional claims that meet consumer demand for health and wellness products, says Joseph O'Neill, executive vice president of sales and marketing for BENEO-Orafti North America, Morris Plains, N.J. “Inulin and oligofructose are chicory fiber extracts that support structure-function claims on bone health and help boost the body's own natural defenses through good digestive well-being.”
Eating more fiber will improve heart and digestive health, and there is evidence that increased fiber in the diet may prove to be a component in weight management. High fiber meals have been found to contribute to satiation and satiety, which can help reduce the amount of calories consumed. While researchers have published studies showing these effects, no regulatory claims have been established, though structure-function claims may be possible. Processors should know that any claims must be stated according to strict FDA guidelines.
Some fiber choices can significantly reduce the caloric load in a product. Chicory inulin/oligofructose has a caloric content of 1.5 kcal/g, and as such, contributes 62 percent fewer calories than sugar and 83 percent fewer calories than fat in bakery formulations.
Consumers are looking for high levels of total dietary fiber in fortified products, including insoluble fiber rather than just soluble fiber. Products that deliver both in a convenient-to-use package are continuing to gain interest in the bakery market. Bakery items are a natural for the inclusion of grains, fruits and nuts that pack both a flavor and fiber-rich punch.
“We have traditionally seen baked goods with good to excellent sources of fiber. Now, foods with much higher content, providing up to 12 g of fiber per serving, are coming on the market,” says Rajen Mehta, director, fiber applications, SunOpta Ingredients, Chelmsford, Mass. “Insoluble, soluble, and viscous soluble have different affects on the characteristics of bakery products and have differing health effects,” Mehta says.
“The choice of fiber will also tremendously affect processing. Several companies have introduced blends of soluble and insoluble fiber to allow bakers to easily use a one-bag system, yet utilize the positives associated with both types of fibers. These blends can deliver 25 to 50 percent soluble fiber and 25 to 50 percent insoluble fiber, depending on the formula. Another advantage of the one-bag system is that they provide a better cost-in-use, which is especially important for medium and small sized bakeries,” Mehta adds.
One of SunOpta's lines — a combination of oat fiber and other insoluble and soluble fibers, and its specialty barley ingredient that can be labeled as sieved barley meal or barley fiber — offer the baker high fiber options for use in cookies and crackers, breads, tortillas, bagels and muffins. The specialty fiber line can be used at very high levels for fiber fortification and the barley ingredient can be used for the FDA heart health claim if the product it is used in provides 0.75 g of beta glucan per serving (21 CFR 101.81).
Orafti ingredients do not react with other fiber sources. Inulin and oligofructose contribute partial sweetness; and they offer a reduction in calories compared to sugar, completely in addition to their many proven functional benefits. In fact, inulin and oligofructose impart a flavor masking benefit. They are known to round out flavors and remove off notes associated with high intensity sweeteners.
A growing number of product developers have found a good solution by using inulin or oligofructose in combination with one or more high intensity sweetener. Sucralose, for example, is known to have a slight licorice off-note that can be masked by the addition of oligofructose.
Mehta cautions that it is important that bakers be aware of the types and sources of fiber in the blends they may use. Analytical methods commonly used, such as AACC method 32-07, do not quantitate some soluble fibers, such as inulin, polydextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, resistant maltodextrin and resistant starches, and must be analyzed by a different method by a qualified laboratory. A new method is in development by the AACC that will measure all fibers using a singular test, but that will not be available for a few more months.
Grain-based fiber blends are not the only way to introduce fiber into baked products. Nuts and fruits also are a part of the bakers market basket that can boost the fiber and flavor of a product. Almonds top the chart when compared to other nuts for fiber content, with 3.5 grams of fiber per ounce. Hazelnuts and pecans follow with 2.7 grams of fiber per ounce.
Almonds are not only fiber friendly, but contribute protein, vitamins and minerals. This helps make almonds a standout ingredient for bakers according to the California Almond Board, Modesto. Almonds can be used whole, sliced or in pieces, and as almond flour, replacing up to 25 percent of wheat flours in pie crust, butter cookie and quick bread formulas, says Priscilla Martell, culinary consultant, Culinary Institute of America (CIA), St. Helena, Calif. “Almonds shorten the gluten in pastries and have a natural fat, so they tenderize and improve the mouthfeel of items like muffins and cakes made with whole grains,” adds Chef Instructor Aaron Brown of the CIA.
Almond flour also can be used in gluten-free formulas, adding flavor and texture to complement starches and gums used for functionality.
Dried fruits, such as apples, cherries, berries, apricots, dates, cranberries and blueberries, add flavor, sweetness and fiber to bakery products and complement whole grains, ancient grains, nuts and chocolate. “Fruit fillings in baked goods are another application where inulin and oligofructose can play a key role in caloric reduction and fiber supplementation as well as texture and flavor enhancement,” O'Neill adds.
Bakers are fortunate to have at their fingertips an array of the very elements consumers clamor for. With a range of fiber sources available, and healthful and delicious addins, such as fruits and nuts, there should be nothing but high-fiber smiles from coast to coast.