Ingredients for Healthy Indulgence

Just a few tricks can deliver products consumers will buy that also are good for them.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

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Superfruit superinterest

“Including enough of a specific ingredient to support a health-oriented labeling claim, without compromising flavor or texture, is a crucial factor when formulating foods one would consider indulgent,” says Ram Chaudhari, chief scientific officer at Fortitech Inc. (, Schenectady, NY. “Currently, superfruits such as açai, mangosteen, goji and pomegranate are popular with food and beverage processors because of their antioxidant profiles. The challenge of including these fruits happens during the processing stage, where it’s easy to lose nutritional benefit.”

For instance, a product such as a muffin might not be sweet enough to offset the plain or bitter flavor that can occur in grain-based ingredients. “Using flavor modulation technology or flavor extracts and/or essential oils are a few ways manufacturers can include a superfruit ingredient to creates an end product that tastes great.

“Consumers looking for an indulgent experience also may be looking for ingredients to help with a particular health condition, such as cognitive function, weight and diabetic management and cardiovascular disease prevention,” Chaudhari continues. “Popular ingredients that address those health concerns include pre- and probiotics, antioxidants, superfruits, omega-3s, CoQ10 and Lycopene.

“More products include flaxseed as an ingredient for to its omega-3 fatty acid content. While it has mostly appeared in breads, cereals and nutrition bars, it is crossing over into more ‘indulgent’ snack choices, such as cookies. Ice cream containing phytosterols would be of interest to a consumer looking for a product that lowers cholesterol. Phytosterols (including stanol esters) can achieve this by suppressing intestinal cholesterol absorption while partially suppressing cholesterol biosynthesis. It is also a great fortification vehicle for vitamins A and D, so consumers should accept the addition of another healthy ingredient, omega-3s as an added benefit.

Dairy products already have health benefits associated with them, including prevention of osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, CVD, stroke, cancer and dental health. Issues surrounding omega-3-enhanced dairy products are primarily formulation challenges: How much to add? How is the product labeled? Are there allergen concerns? What claims can be made on the label? What about contaminants?

“Microencapsulated fish oil has solved a main formulation challenge — the flavor/odor problem — allowing its addition to a wide variety of foods,” continues Chaudhari. “There is no established recommended daily amount for EPA/DHA, but delivering 50mg to 100mg per serving in a variety of foods will help people reach the 500mg/day amount proposed by FDA, AHA and others.”

Newman’s Own Organics (, Westport, Conn., is in its 15th year of proving “healthy” and “indulgence” belong together. Now a separate company from Newman’s Own, the company offers dozens of healthy indulgences across the range of foods, beverages and condiments.

All, of course, are organic, and with a focus on flavor first. One of the company’s slogans echoes the principle behind bringing together two seemingly opposing ideals: “Great Tasting Products That Happen To Be Organic.”

With an intricate ingredient selection and formulation development process, Newman’s Own Organics offers not just pretzels, popcorn and soy crisps, but some two dozen varieties of cookies and nearly a dozen kinds of chocolate bars and cups.

What seems to be re-emerging is an old tradition, one in which indulgence is part of a healthy diet. It’s not really new, just newly popular. They are so connected that maybe the work put into creating healthy indulgent foods will have a positive influence on a healthy diet.

Note to Marketing

Indulgence in no longer dependant on high fat, high sugar and low-nutrient ingredients. Today’s emphasis on invisible fibers, prebiotics and high protein soy for texture and mouthfeel, along with healthy fats and carbohydrates, means that the marketing of indulgence can also have a nutrition message -- indulge your palate as well as your health.

Recent research into the benefits of cocoa flavanols and the ability of plant sterols to remove cholesterol from your bloodstream are imparting healthy attributes on even the most indulgent products.

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