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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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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