Fiber, whole grains and seeds: Packing nutritional punch into gluten-free

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Scientists highlight a vast array of ingredients that can not only pack nutrition but also improve taste and texture
Scientists highlight a vast array of ingredients that can not only pack nutrition but also improve taste and texture

Related tags Gluten-free bakery products Gluten-free products Whole grain Cereal

Bakers have a vast choice of grains and seeds that can nutritionally improve gluten-free products, including fibers, ancient grains and seeds, according to scientists.

Scientists and application technologists from Penford Food Ingredients, Bay State Milling and ConAgra Foods presented an array of opportunities for bakers looking to fortify gluten-free products at an IBIE 2013 educational session in Las Vegas.

Fibers like chia and flax, ancient whole grains like buckwheat, amaranth and teff and pumpkin seeds were a handful featured in the extensive ingredients list presented during the session.

“The new trend now is to add in ingredients, but they have to be non-allergenic and minimal reformulation is also favored,”​ said Jennifer Williams, senior application scientist at Penford Food Ingredients.

“There are a few trends – whole grain flours and proteins as well as different oils and fibers,”​ Williams told attendees at the educational session.

Fiber: A ‘very hot’ topic now

Fibers such as bamboo, rice bran, sugar cane, chia, flax and resistant starches have lots of health and functional benefits when used in bakery, she said.

The ingredients have digestive and glycemic health properties as well as the ability to reduce calories in baked goods, she said, and in terms of functionality have high process stability, good gut tolerance and can improve texture.

“Fiber is a very hot topic right now, so anything we can add in is a good thing,”​ Williams said.

Fibers also enable nutrient content claims on pack, she added, like ‘contains fiber’ or ‘a good source of fiber’.

Ancient whole grains for nutrition, texture and taste

Whole grains and seeds can also be incorporated into gluten-free bakery products to enhance nutrition, taste and texture, said Vanessa Klimczak, product applications technologies at Bay State Milling.

“There is a large variety of gluten-free grains that can be used, for example – quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum and teff. Then you have pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy and sesame. A lot can be used in whole form to add texture and taste,”​ she said.

Amaranth, buckwheat, chia and teff have almost double the amount of protein that typical rice flours do, she said, as well as much higher fiber levels. These grains along with millet, chia and flax are also good sources of protein, she added.

“It’s really interesting to note how much more nutrition you can achieve by subbing in whole grains,”​ Klimczak said.

When it comes to taste and texture, she said that teff and toasted sesame can add nuttiness and whole millet gives crunch.

“A grain blend and topping can significantly enhance your visual and taste appeal,”​ she said.

Overcoming challenges

Gluten-free continues to be an on-going process, said Kurt Becker, research scientist at ConAgra Foods.

“A lot of what is known has been achieved by a lot of hard work and failures. The primary hurdles are that the ingredients and process has to be validated,” ​he said.

Typically bakers should look to operate a stand-alone gluten-free line, he advised, but where this is not possible validation steps must be built in.

Becker said that appeal – both visual and taste – must be strong and prompt secondary purchases.

“We do have to be creative and thoughtful… When formulating gluten-free baked products safety is always key and you need to focus on key functionality attributes that you want,”​ he said.

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