Missing Ingredient into Snack Foods
By Jim Core
July 13, 2001
Increasing the dietary fiber from less
than three to more than 10 percent in favorite snack foods is now possible with
help from Agricultural Research Service
scientists. The best part is that consumers can get the added health benefit of
the fiber without tasting the difference.
Many snack foods are cooked using a method known as extrusion. This is the
process of forcing corn, wheat or rye meal flour and other ingredients through
a die under high pressure, and sometimes heat, essentially cooking the mixture.
Until now, it has been difficult to add cereal fibers during extrusion
without causing undesirable texture, which then decreases consumer acceptance,
according to food technologist Charles I. Onwulata of the
ARS Eastern Regional Research Center
in Wyndmoor, Pa.
However, Onwulata and his team found that by including dairy proteins such
as casein or whey as a binder to hold everything together, they could also add
more dietary fiber during extrusion cooking. The texture of the resulting snack
food was found to be comparable in texture to other snack foods currently on
the market, according to Onwulata.
Products such as breakfast cereals, corn puffs, cheese curls and energy bars
are sometimes prepared using the extrusion process. Many of these products have
less than one gram of fiber per 50 grams of product. According to Onwulata, his
product can contain as many as 15 grams of fiber in a 50-gram bar. The
recommended fiber intake is 20 to 35 grams a day, but Americans average only
about 15 grams of fiber a day in their diets. Studies suggest fiber decreases
the risk of heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure and diabetes.
In a separate project, Onwulata has filed for a patent on a process that
uses milk protein to envelope fiber and keep it from soaking up water when used
in many foods. Reducing the water-holding capacity of the fiber improves food
quality, according to Onwulata. He works in the ERRC's
Dairy Products Research Unit.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.