How to Build a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast makers are looking beyond snap, crackle and pop to a functional future of simplicity, endurance and heart health.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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Smythe, too, sees more flavor and functionality coming from natural sources such as yogurt and pomegranate, as well as from botanicals such as cardamom, allspice, ginger, mango and “exotic” tea powders.

Even among the “standby” grains, ingredient makers are innovating with the combo of health and simplicity in mind. While the company provides multiple specialty starches, specialty ingredients, functional fibers and whole grain ingredients for a wide array of cereal applications, one of the best examples of potential in this arena is National Starch’s Hi-Maize resistant starch, a highly functional form of starch from corn, which acts as fiber.

Research into resistant starch has shown it increases satiety not only through its fiberlike action but at a biochemical level in the body. It also has proven benefits for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers, while improving blood-sugar balance. Better, resistant starch provides about 40 percent fewer calories than regular starches and can be substituted for 25 percent or more of regular flours in formulations.

Pass the Grains

Sorghum also is in position to play to its strengths in breakfast foods. As a sweetener, it’s an iron-rich replacement for stronger-tasting sweeteners such as molasses. But recall that it’s a grain, and as such it’s the recipient of a surge of research into greater use in cereals and baked goods.

“I’m pretty optimistic about seeing an increase in sorghum’s use in healthy food products,” says Jeff Dahlberg, research director for the National Sorghum Producers’ United Sorghum Checkoff Program (, Lubbock, Texas.

“Sorghum is gluten-free, and as we begin to better understand its starch and protein properties, you’ll see more uses for it in this particular market,” he says. “We are also excited about some of our specialty sorghums, which contain tannins that have excellent ORAC [antioxidant] values. We also have several groups working on products using bran from these specialty sorghums."

Two major issues are pulling breakfast R&D in seemingly opposite directions. There’s the push for increased functionality, making breakfast foods healthier than ever. But there also is a drive toward simplicity — fewer ingredients that are more pure, more organic and less processed.

– Kent Spalding, Weetabix North America/Barbara's Bakery Inc.

While Dahlberg recognizes the growth of whole grains as more research points to their importance in nutrition, he also sees the challenges the ingredients present to processors. “Obviously, getting products [such as sorghum flour] to taste like and react like they are refined flours will take more research, but I believe we are making excellent strides in addressing those issues. For instance, Twin Valley Mills LLC [Ruskin, Neb.] is producing sorghum flour, and Enjoy Life Foods LLC [Schiller Park, Ill.] is making a very nice cereal product using sorghum.”

Another leap forward for breakfast foods on the horizon is the use of nongrain ingredients as the fundamental component. “Lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas are candidates for future formulations,” explains Heather Maskus, manager of the Food Innovation Project for Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Pulse Canada ( “Pulses are high in fiber and protein, gluten free and contain a host of other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and other phytochemicals.”

Previous technical hurdles for use of pulse flours in cereals have been overcome. According to Maskus, recent advances in cereal flaking roll-equipment -- which improved flake consistency for innovative ingredients such as ancient grains -- is applicable to pulses, easing their incorporation into flaked cereals.

Agricultural processing giant ADM (, Decatur, Ill., has taken notice of the untapped functional, flavor and applications values of bean flours for breakfast concepts. The company rolled out its VegeFull brand of bean powders at this year’s IFT show, featuring it in a breakfast bar to great success. The company also presented a line of natural dry sweeteners, such as its Sweet ’n’ Neat dry honey powder. Other natural dry sweetener offerings by ADM include dry molasses and dry malt extract for similar applications.

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