Consumers Choosing Healthier Foods

Processors are providing – and wise consumers are choosing – foods that just may turn around the obesity epidemic.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

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According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the obesity epidemic in America, defined as a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30, continues unabated.

Only Colorado reports statewide obesity levels below 20 percent. In Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, obesity rates exceed 30 percent. This is particularly alarming because obesity increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, some forms of cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

 

Potatoes of all types top the Satiety Index, with boiled spuds in the No. 1 position. With only 110 calories, their Nutrition Facts (if they had one) would be clean and sprinkled with attractive nutrients.

While even the USDA’s newest (2005) Food Pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov) suggests that exercise is the real key, many Americans are trying to become fit, not fat, by making better food choices, as demonstrated by the growing functional foods category.

Liz Sloan, president of Sloan Trends and Solutions, in a recent report identified the top 10 functional food trends in the U.S., and many of them speak to this issue. She said consumers are looking to (1) create a healthy household, using (2) foods naturally rich in nutrients because they are concerned about (3) weight control and (4) specific health conditions, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Their (5) proactive lifestyles are (6) simpler, greener, and cleaner, so they choose (7) smart treats and foods designed for those (8) sensitive to food allergies that (9) provide vitality and at the same time are (10) new and unique.

Satiety rules
Functional food products specifically designed for weight loss and long-term weight management that include satiety-inducing ingredients can play an important part in facilitating the fight against obesity.

Satiety was mentioned all over the floor at the July IFT Food Expo. InterHealth Nutraceuticals’ (www.interhealthusa.com) SuperCitrimax is a plant extract that contains high levels of hydroxycitric acid bound to calcium and potassium. Clinical and preclinical studies indicate it can help people lose weight by both suppressing appetite and by increasing fat burning.

At the IFT show, the company was quoting clinical studies that showed people taking 500mg of SuperCitrimax voluntarily consumed less food daily, and especially ate fewer snacks. Fuze, SoBe and Nutrisoda use it in beverages.

InterHealth also claims chromium helps insulin metabolize fat, turn protein into muscle and convert sugar into energy. Chromium-activated insulin increases the amount of blood sugar available for energy production nearly twenty-fold. As a result, the company offers a product called ChromeMate.

DSM Nutrition was showing Fabuless, an oil-in-water emulsion made from naturally occurring dietary lipids -- palm oil, coated with galactolipids from oat oil. Oat oil is naturally rich in so-called polar lipids, such as galactolipids. Thanks to them, Fabuless triggers the natural appetite control mechanism.

Tate & Lyle was promoting “that feeling of fullness” as a key benefit of its Promitor dietary fibers, both corn fibers and resistant starch.

Dairy Management Inc. at the show was promoting whey protein along with fiber to promote satiety. A Korean company, Bionutrigen, is working with a number of fruit and vegetable extracts to promote satiety as well as to hasten calorie-burning.

Protein is becoming recognized as a key component in satiety. Advances in soy research have enabled manufactures to increase the protein content of a wide variety of foods. Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) NutriSoy protein crisps are available in 60, 80 and 85 percent protein versions. They “provide customers another option for incorporating even more protein into foods consumers love,” says Mark Metivier, director of sales for ADM’s Specialty Food Ingredients unit (www.admworld.com), Decatur, Ill.

Benesoy from Devansoy (www.devansoy.com), Carroll, Iowa, is available as liquid, powder, and soy flour form, low fat and full fat versions.

 

These prototypes from Devansoy were created to show how a healthful drink like soy milk can be made indulgent.

Yogurt may be healthy enough, but the new yogurt from Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com), Londonderry, N.H., has even more protein with the goal of increasing satiety. The product is called Oikos, or “yiaourti” in Greece. Authentic Greek yogurt is creamier than regular yogurt due to a centuries-old straining process that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt – the result is more protein.

Australian researcher Susanna Holt developed the Satiety Index, a way to measure the ability of different foods to satisfy hunger. Simply feed 240 calories of different foods to participants and then rank their feelings of hunger every 15 minutes, allowing them to eat freely for the next two hours. Of all the foods tested, boiled potatoes were the most satisfying by a wide margin. Not French fries mind you — boiled potatoes, the ones many consumers have been shunning because they didn’t fit the convoluted reasoning of some diet books.

As Meredith Myers, spokesperson for the United States Potato Board (www.uspotatoes.com), Denver, points out, “One medium size (5.3-oz.) potato contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol, and has 110 calories. It provides 45 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.” Skins in tact, potatoes are a good source of potassium. Potatoes come in different colors, many of which are good sources of phytochemicals.

Mintel International’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) statistics show global launches for products with a satiety positioning have increased from one in the first quarter of 2005 to 42 in the first quarter of 2008. One-third of those were based on a combination of fibers and proteins with another 20 percent claiming a high protein or high fiber content. Water also is a key factor in building satiation, particularly when it is incorporated into the food’s matrix.

 

With 8g of protein and 6g of fiber, Kashi’s GoLean bars pack a lot of nutrition and satiety in between the caramel and chocolate.
Flax, soy, blueberry … Nature’s Path cereals are chock full of ingredients attractive to people with healthy lifestyles.


A dominant theme running through the functional food trends is nutrient density. Consumers are tired of dieting, bored with counting calories and understandably confused by newer and inherently confounding dietary parameters, such as glycemic index and glycemic load. But you don’t have to pull out the solar calculator to figure out the value of getting the greatest punch from the calories we take in.Nutrient density

Whole grains, phytochemicals, probiotics and omega-3s are among the focal points of new and unique functional foods that support healthier, fit lifestyles. Those are some of the key ingredients across the portfolio of Optimum products from Nature’s Path.

“Optimum Power, Slim, Zen and ReBound cereals are designed to help the body replenish essential nutrients and minerals after vigorous exercise,” says Maria Emmer-Aanes, director of marketing at Nature’s Path. “We call them all Optimum because for people with active lifestyles, they’re a smarter, healthier way to live,” she says.

The key to Optimum Slim is 11g of fiber per serving – which increases satiety, according to a spokesperson.
The Optimum line includes hot cereals, dry cereals, waffles, and bars. Many contain flax as a source of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. All have natural soy isoflavones, are low in fat (with no trans fat or cholesterol) and are sources of fiber, protein and iron. Optimum Power and Zen hot oatmeal cereals contain soy germ and super fruits like blueberries and cranberries.

 

With its original granola as well as subsequent products, Bear Naked has raised snacking to a healthier level while also appealing to consumers with active lifestyles.

An active lifestyle also is the underlying theme at Bear Naked (www.bearnaked.com), La Jolla, Calif., best known for its homemade granola made from whole grains and minimally processed ingredients. But the company also offers a full line of organic hot cereals and all-natural and organic trail mixes.

Bear Naked’s new Native line features unique ingredients “that embody the same adventurous spirit of our customers,” says Ryan Therriault, senior manager of brand marketing and innovation. The Native line that features Yumberry Goji Currant and Mango Agave Almond flavors.

Kashi expanded its GoLean product line in November 2007. It now includes cereals, bars and waffles, all made with the company’s trademark “seven whole grains” and soy as a source of protein, fiber and micronutrients.

“When making the decision about what to snack on, it’s important to choose products that not only taste great and satisfy your cravings, but that offer positive nutrition,” says Jeff Johnson, senior brand manager and nutritionist for Kashi, now a unit of Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. “GoLean is designed for proactive, healthy weight managers, not for people who want a quick dieting fix.”

More on fiber
You probably can’t be fit without being healthy overall. In addition to promoting satiety, as discussed earlier, certain fibers can do a lot more to promote overall health.

“Inulin is one of many functional ingredients that can make healthy foods more attractive,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs and communications manager at Cargill Health & Nutrition (www.cargill.com), Minneapolis. “Inulin is recognized as a prebiotic ingredient that supports the natural, healthful bacteria in the lower GI tract. Research also indicates that inulin may enhance dietary calcium absorption, particularly among preteens and postmenopausal women.” And Cargill’s Oliggo-Fiber brand of inulin can be incorporated into almost any food or beverage without affecting taste or texture.

Inulin is classed as soluble fiber as is Barliv, Cargill’s barley betafiber, a concentrated beta-glucan fiber derived from whole grain barley. “It [Barliv] has been clinically shown to reduce cholesterol when consumed as part of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, and is authorized for an FDA health claim,” says Stauffer.

No healthy household is complete without a generous stock of naturally nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, a pretty good indicator of the commitment to lifestyle change. Few foods spell nutrient density like beans, according to Bob Green, director of the Michigan Bean Commission (www.michiganbean.org), St. Johns, Mich. Dry beans are low in fat, high in quality protein, rich in soluble fiber, bountiful in many phytochemicals (including lignans, and flavonoids) and full of B vitamins, especially folic acid, and minerals such as copper, iron, and magnesium. They also contain phytosterols, which, in addition to the soluble fiber, help to lower cholesterol. That gives a total package that is both healthful and satisfying.

Increasing the nutrient density of foods and beverages often requires overcoming technical challenges. “We are seeing lots of encapsulation-related projects,” says Kevin Stark Sr., “engagement manager” at NineSigma Inc. (www.ninesigma.com), an independent product development and consulting company based in Cleveland. “The issues of course are helping to improve the stability of ingredients, like probiotics (for yogurt), omega-3s, and vitamins, etc., to mask their taste and to target bioavailability, for example to the intestines. Additionally, there is lots of interest in reduced sodium, sugar and fat. One of the challenges, for example, is removal of fat from a chocolate system that would still have the right viscosity and performance, and also still retain the desired organoleptic qualities.”

The glaring flaw in the modern diet is its dependence on large quantities of “empty calories” to satisfy hunger. Increasingly, consumers are opting out of these choices, though apparently not yet enough to alter the disturbing obesity statistics. It’s a good bet, however, that manufacturers that invest in nutrient density and satiety are brightening the consumer’s future as well as their own.

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