Consumers know they need more grains and fiber. That's the conclusion of a February study noted by the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF; www.grainfoodsfoundation.org), Washington. We all could increase our nutrient intake, especially children, which are considered deficient in several key nutrients, by adding more grain-based foods, the study revealed. Though whole-grain consumption is up for adults, kids are still lagging behind where they should be where nutrients from grains are concerned.
Certain grain foods such as fiber, and dietary folate, iron, B vitamins and vitamin A are critical to the nutrient intake of children, says a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients (www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients). The researchers point out that grain foods contribute a variety of essential nutrients. The findings correlate with conclusions in the updated Dietary Guidelines, which state most American kids just don't consume enough of these nutrients.
Therefore, opportunities abound for childrens' products incorporating fiber and whole grains. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, says "Not meeting nutrient recommendations can stall childhood development, ranging from stunting growth to cognitive delays. Ensuring children consume adequate amounts of essential nutrients will facilitate success in the classroom as well as happy and healthy development."
The findings also underscore the importance of nutrient density of both whole and enriched grain food products, including breads, rolls, tortillas and ready-to-eat cereals, says the GFF's executive director Christine Cochran. "Shoppers often look for fiber and whole grains in tandem," she says. "The Food Marketing Institute's 2015 US Grocery Shopper Trends Report says shoppers seeking foods high in fiber (35 percent) also tend to seek foods high in whole grains (41 percent). The importance of fiber in the diet is well-substantiated, though we continue to learn more about the unique role cereal fiber plays in the gut microbiome."
Also among the GFF research's findings: Ready-to-eat cereals, breads, rolls and tortillas can contribute more nutrients (thiamin, folate, fiber, iron and niacin) to children's and adolescents' diets than any other grain category.
Different grains, different nutrients
The whole grain category has grown considerably, set to hit $27.8 billion globally this year, according to findings from Global Industry Analysts (www.strategyr.com). However, different grains provide different nutrients, Cochran points out. "While wheat is a good source of manganese, quinoa adds phosphorus, and barley adds molybdenum to the diet [molybdenum is a trace dietary element]. It's important to consume a wide variety to ensure we’re receiving a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals."
Oatmeal is the base of all Fruit Squeeze products by Munk Pack (www.munkpack.com), a Connecticut-based company that showcased the 4.2-oz. portable pouches in five flavors at March's Natural Products Expo West. In addition to oatmeal and the featured fruit, Fruit Squeezes contain quinoa, cinnamon, flax and chia seeds for heartiness. Each pouch contains 3-4g of fiber. "Oatmeal is recognized as a healthy source of fiber, protein and carbohydrate," explains company co-founder Michelle Glienke. "We're experiencing major growth in high fiber snacks. Whole grains will continue to be in high demand, especially as demand grows for products that support healthy digestion."
Grains are being added to entrees and salad kits, like Nourish Bowls from produce supplier Mann Packing Co. (www.nourishbowls.com), Salinas, Calif. Loaded with squash, kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower and other veggies, the convenient bowls include brown rice, fibrous black beans and chickpeas and a tasty sauce that all combine for a microwave-ready meal in minutes. Nourish Bowls come in four varieties: Sesame Sriracha, Smokehouse Brussels, Southwest Chipotle and Monterey.
General Mills is researching a "planet-friendly," organic, perennial grain called kernza (intermediate wheatgrass), which it says tastes sweet and nutty and is suitable as an ingredient for cereal and snacks. The company has approved a $500,000 charitable contribution to support research on kernza, which shows promise in providing benefits to soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention and wildlife habitats. Cascadian Farm, which is owned by General Mills, agreed to buy an initial amount of kernza to eventually incorporate into its cereals and snacks.
Partnering with The Land Institute and the University of Minnesota, General Mills hopes through Cascadian Farm to cultivate and eventually commercialize kernza. This wild relative of wheat is drought resistant and perennial, so doesn't need to be replanted every year.
"We believe in the potential of this grain to make a positive ecological impact, and this helps us live up to the expectation our consumers have for Cascadian Farm and continue to be a pioneer in organic farming and land stewardship," states Carla Vernón, vice-president of Cascadian Farm.
Jerry Lynch, General Mills' chief sustainability officer, says kernza lends itself well to cereals and snacks.
"Our analysis indicates the kernel has high levels of protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals. We hope to have products in the market sometime during the 2018 calendar year. Kernza provides a continuous cover crop and helps to regenerate and preserve soil quality, water retention and carbon levels," he says.
Sprouted grains are a hot segment in whole-grain foods, and Angelic Bakehouse (www.angelicbakehouse.com), a rapidly growing sprouted grain bakery in Cudahy, Wis., ought to know. Angelic produces an expanding line of breads, wraps, rolls, baguettes, pizza crusts and more. "The U.S. sprouted grains market is projected to reach $150 million by 2020, nearly 8 times the 2015 level," says co-founder and president Jenny Marino.
"Our sprouted grain process triples the amount of soluble fiber in the grains, compared to traditional refining processes. Sprouted grains are more nutrient-dense and higher in fiber than traditional breads, have lower calories, carbohydrates and glycemic index levels," says. "The sprouted whole grain trend is a part of a global trend focusing on clean, whole eating." Angelic’s breads quickly became category leaders, with sales increasing 10-fold since 2009. Its new sprouted grain crisps, are made from toasted sprouted grain bread, and have at least 2g of fiber each.
Changing fiber definition
Fiber is going through two big regulatory changes. One is the definition of what qualifies as fiber (it was never officially defined until now), the other is an increase in the recommended daily value, from 25g to 28g.
The FDA defined the term dietary fiber last May as part of its efforts to update the Nutritional Facts panel. Manufacturers will need to prove their fiber ingredient has one beneficial physiological effect to human health that meets the definition's requirements. So far, the FDA has reviewed 26 isolated synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates, ranging from alginate to xylooligosaccharides.
"Since the new labeling regulations focus on added sugars, soluble chicory root fiber can positively affect both added sugars and fiber on the label," notes Carol Lowry, senior food scientist at Cargill (www.cargill.com), Wayzata, Minn. "The FDA is still reviewing chicory root fiber inulin, but given the wealth of data on its beneficial physiological effects, we're confident the additional information supplied through the citizen petition will aid in the review and approval of inulin as a dietary fiber. Following the new recommended daily values, 2.8g of fiber per serving is a good source; 5.6g per serving is an excellent source."
Two layered chewy snack bars in General Mills' Fiber One line combine oats and chicory root. Double Chocolate Almond and Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate varieties debuted in February. Along with insoluble fiber, the bars contain inulin soluble fiber extracted with water. One bar has a total of 7g of fiber, 25 percent of the daily value for fiber.
Another way formulators can add more fiber is with almonds. High in vitamin E, magnesium and protein, about 1/4 cup of almonds has nearly 11 percent of the daily fiber requirement for women and about 7 percent for men. "Almonds are a powerhouse ingredient in new product formulations," explains Molly Spence, director of North America, at the Almond Board of California (www.almonds.com), Modesto, Calif. "The tree nuts also contain predominantly monounsaturated fats and provide 14 percent of the daily value for fiber."
As more processors look for non-GMO, clean-label ingredients, they reach for pulse flour, notes Patrick Luchsinger, marketing manager, nutrition, at Ingredion (www.ingredion.com), Westchester, Ill. "The demand is there. Our Versafibre dietary fiber can help manufacturers address fiber enrichment concerns because of its excellent fiber retention and high process tolerance. And it doesn’t affect the product's taste."
Pulses provide the basis of chips and cracker snacks like Pulse Chips from RW Garcia (rwgarcia.com), made with lentils, chickpeas and black beans, ancient grains and non-GMO corn. "Pulse crops are earth-friendly and delicious," explains Genelle Chetcuti, RW Garcia’s senior director of marketing. Three latest chip varieties are Hummus & Red Bell Pepper, Black Bean & Garlic and Lentil & Turmeric.