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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Functional Foods Research » Research » Research Project #438210

Research Project: Improved Processes and Technologies for Comprehensive Utilization of Speciality Grains in Functional Food Production for Digestive Health and Food Waste Reduction

Location: Functional Foods Research

2021 Annual Report

Objective 1: Innovate processes to improve the properties of underutilized crops such as sorghum, millet, and hemp seed (SMHS), and their byproducts to enable increased commercial use. •Sub-objective 1A: Enhance the health-promoting and commercially important functional properties of SMHS flours, fractions and byproducts by thermomechanical processing treatments alone or in combination to obtain new components and composites. •Sub-objective 1B: Enhance the health-promoting and commercially important functional properties of SMHS flours, fractions and byproducts by chemical/enzymatic treatments alone or in combination with either thermomechanical processing. •Sub-objective 1C: Enhance the health-promoting and commercially important functional properties of SMHS flours, fractions and byproducts by addition of other grain- or legume-based ingredients for functional composite formation, nutritionally complete diets, and flavor, texture, or structure improvement of food matrices. Objective 2: Integrate the digestive health attributes of various SMHS components and their composites following innovative applications to improve process economics of food products and develop bioproduct ingredients using SMHS components. •Sub-objective 2A: Develop food applications from SMHS components and conduct digestive health study. •Sub-objective 2B: Develop non-food applications from SMHS components.

The dietary benefits of sorghum, millet, and hemp seed (SMHS) are well established and are increasingly recognized as valuable sources of protein, starch, fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. These crops are also drought resistant. They are, however, underutilized and used mainly for animal feed and biofuel production (sorghum) in the Unites States. The overall goal of this project plan is to convert these underutilized crops and their byproducts from milling and biofuel production into value-added food products and bio-products based upon their nutritional, physiochemical or chemical properties. There exist two primary challenges facing wider utilization of SMHS:1) consumption barrier that stems from characteristics of SMHS and perception; 2) byproducts of biofuel (sorghum) and milling of SMHS could be better utilized to defray production cost. We will focus on identifying the effects of synergistic thermomechanical and biological treatments on SMHS grains, flours, and fractions and developing processing strategy based upon understanding of SMHS component interactions and information of in vitro and in vivo digestive health studies to enhance the nutritional, structural and functional properties of SMHS based food products. The processed SMHS materials will be incorporated into standard food formulations with the aim of maximizing the content of SMHS-based ingredients with marketable sensory properties. Non-food applications will also be investigated based on physical and chemical properties of the end products. The outcomes of this research will expand domestic and international markets for SMHS crops and therefore contribute to the sustainability of US agriculture in the era of climate change.

Progress Report
Research conducted during the current reporting period has generated knowledge and technologies for developing new functional food opportunities, functional food ingredients, market applications, and products with increased health benefits. Under Objective 1: Sorghum, Millet and Hemp Seed (SMHS) flours were purchased or their flours/fractions were created from commercial whole seeds and milled in our laboratory as the initial step of the investigation. We also obtained and investigated SMHS byproducts from milling with the help of our stakeholders. Thermomechanical processes such as steam jet cooking and polytron were applied to induce structural changes in the flours of SMHS and physicochemical and sensory properties of significant importance to the food industry were also examined and our preliminary data analysis indicates the property change from processing of SMHS grains enables SMHS fractions to be used in existing formulation of a wide range of baked goods including cookies, noodle, cakes, and gluten-free breads. Research conducted on SMHS grains, which have special nutrition and gluten free qualities compared with common ordinary grains such as wheat, rice or corn, has demonstrated the potential role of these grains as functional food ingredients. In contrast to wheat and rice, these underutilized grains are used as whole grains in the forms of flours or extracts which make them more nutritious. Our studies have created healthful alternative ingredients for gluten intolerant consumers but also for providing food products that deliver improved health benefits for commercial markets. Research was also conducted by adding healthy oil or legumes to these processed fractions or flours that can enhance nutritional completion of existing foods for consumers and are suitable for commercial scale production. Under Objective 2: We conducted research on applications of newly developed fractions and flours of various specialty grains in various food categories. For some studies, the fractions or flours after processing (thermomechanical and/or biological) were used as healthy replacements for formulations of commercial food products (baked products or noodle as well as beverages); in other studies we blended them with other food materials or nutritionally or/and rheologically complementary grain fractions or extracts/concentrates (e.g., soy proteins, oat bran, legume fractions) to obtain food composite materials. These new composites had special amino acid profiles and nutritional components that made them suitable for commercial scale production. The bioactive components including soluble fibers, antioxidants, complete essential amino acids, and food hydrocolloids found in our new composites prepared from SMHS make the composites useful as food ingredients for functional foods. This study will provide the food industry with the opportunity to add bioactive ingredients to their existing food product lines. We are also exploring the potential of milling byproducts of SMHS for industrial applications. Initial work focuses on identifying components of the grains that exhibit certain properties that are useful in industrial applications such as emulsifiers and adhesives. New and expanded markets for underutilized grains including their by-products are important for improving the profitability of American agriculture. Food applications of these grains were the main focus, but applications were also explored on the uses of processed and fractionated components of milling byproducts for non-food applications at the commercial level. Novel composites of SMHS grains and pulses, which are equally healthful and have complementary amino acid profiles, are being tested to develop food ingredients that are nutritionally complete and functional in various food formulations. We anticipate that these innovative SMHS-containing baked products will have nutritional and textual qualities that are comparable to existing all-wheat baked goods. Dietary fiber, free and bound phenolic and antioxidant activities were extracted and evaluated for selected SMHS grains. The results provided useful information on development of and nutritional implication of functional foods. New studies were initiated on processing composites (jet cooking) in our pilot plant. The effect of thermomechanical processing was studied on yield, qualities, and textures of hydrocolloids, protein rich fractions, and soluble fibers. The antioxidants derived from the grains will also be tested as natural antioxidants in frying oil or baked goods.

1. Development of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) applications in sugar analysis of soybeans. Soybeans have significant amounts of carbohydrates including dietary fiber and many forms of sugars. However, sugar content of soybeans is difficult and expensive to assess. NIRS provides a rapid nondestructive method to determine the composition of grains and soybeans. ARS scientists in Peoria, Illinois, developed fast and non-destructive methods to accurately measure levels of sugars in large numbers of a wide range of soybeans to understand the relationship with the growing environment and conditions. The NIRS evaluation of total carbohydrates, including the non-digestible sugars, was calibrated, and then the calibration models were used to evaluate sugar composition of 2300 soybean samples and an additional 700 samples for validation. Relationships among sugars and the agronomic traits of soybeans were determined. This work demonstrates that NIRS is a rapid method to determine sugars in large numbers of soybeans, and that crop year, maturity group, and location had a significant effect on the sugars in soybeans. The models and information will be used in the effort to develop an inexpensive handheld NIRS device for use in soybean value pricing.

2. Innovative healthy noodle product using amaranth. Thermo-mechanical processes such as roasting and jet-cooking have potential for developing gluten-free, nutritive noodles using underutilized grain. Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.), one of the underutilized ancient grains, is high in healthy nutrients and has a good gluten-free protein profile, with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids and a low fraction of saturated fatty acid suggested to have a cholesterol-lowering effect. ARS scientists at Peoria, Illinois, developed a process of thermo-mechanical treatment that includes roasting and steam jet cooking. Roasting, a simple dry heat process, and steam jet cooking, a wet heat process that generates high shear stress, were applied to improve the nutrition and digestibility of amaranth flour. Noodles made from the raw, roasted and jet cooked amaranth flours were compared to wheat flour noodles in terms of several important sensory properties. The results demonstrated that gluten-free amaranth flours produced by various processing methods improved processability, cooking, textural, and sensory quality in food product matrices. This will facilitate expanded utilization of amaranth and contribute to the sustainability of U.S. agriculture in the era of climate change where amaranth is known to be more resistant to drought than other major staple crops.

3. Substitution of wheat flour with sorghum flour in cookie formulation. Sorghum produced in the U.S. is mainly used as animal feed and biofuel production feedstock. To increase the utilization of sorghum, in food ingredients, ARS scientists in Peoria, Illinois, determined that the properties of sorghum flour must be modified to increase its functional properties, or new ingredients must be created in order to expand the uses of sorghum in food applications in the U.S. Reducing the particle size of sorghum flour improved functional properties and resulted in desired characteristics of cookies baked by substituting wheat flour with sorghum flour. Particle size affected the hydration and pasting properties of sorghum flour. Cookies can be made with 30% fine particle size sorghum flour that have a more healthful nutritional profile. This study helps sorghum producers and consumers by developing processes to improve food utilization of sorghum to generate more healthful alternatives to common products.

4. Novel gluten free composite for functional food ingredients. Innovative gluten free food ingredients are in high demand for many categories of food products as gluten allergy is on the rise today. Naturally gluten-free amaranth grains have already received growing attention as a rich phytochemical source compared to common grains. Oat bran contains constituents that are well known for the benefit of reducing coronary heart disease and improving processability of food ingredients and blends as well as texture of food products. ARS scientists at Peoria, Illinois, developed novel nutritious gluten-free food composites using amaranth flour blended with 10-50% oat bran by jet-cooking technology. Results from this study demonstrate that jet-cooking effectively reduced particle size and bulk density, whereas the soluble fiber content, water-holding capacity, and soluble solids were increased, which are critical for potential functional food applications, especially for dairy, beverage, and porridge products. The jet-cooked-amaranth-oat composites could be incorporated into many types of high-quality commercial food products and provide increased choices for consumers who suffer from gluten intolerance.

5. Effect of steam explosion on functional and nutritional properties of whole buckwheat. Many underutilized grains with excellent health benefits for consumers require additional processing or modification to make them more digestible and compatible with existing food formulations. Buckwheat flour or its fractions are seldomly used as food ingredients despite its excellent nutritional profile. ARS scientists in Peoria, Illinois, have explored innovative processes to increase buckwheat uses in food manufacturing. Whole buckwheat flour was thermo-mechanically processed using steam explosion (SE) technology at different temperatures and durations. Analysis of dietary fiber, antioxidant, and phenolic components revealed that soluble fiber increased slightly at mid-range temperatures and decreased at high temperature likely due to degradation. Antioxidant activities of the treated samples were all shown to improve after SE treatment. Water solubility increased at low temperature but decreased at higher temperature SE treatments. Sample colors became progressively darker as treatment temperature and times increased. Steam explosion treatment could provide potential advantages for food applications such as increased antioxidant ability and soluble fiber in buckwheat-based products.

Review Publications
Liu, S.X., Chen, D., Plumier, B.M., Berhow, M.A., Xu, J., Byars, J.A. 2020. Impact of particle size fractions on composition, antioxidant activities, and functional properties of soybean hulls. Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization. 15:1547-1562.
Singh, M., Bowman, M.J., Berhow, M.A., Price, N.P., Liu, S.X. 2021. Application of near infrared spectroscopy for determination of relationship between crop year, maturity group, location, and carbohydrate composition in soybeans. Crop Science. 61(4): 2409-2422.
Byars, J.A., Singh, M., Kenar, J.A., Felker, F.C., Moser, J.K. 2021. Effect of particle size and processing method on starch and protein digestibility of navy bean flour. Cereal Chemistry. 98(4):829-839.
Singh, M., Liu, S.X. 2021. Evaluation of amaranth flour processing for noodle making. Journal of Food Processing and Preservation. 45(4): Article e15270.
Rose, D.J., Poudel, R., Van Haute, M.J., Yang, Q., Wang, L., Singh, M., Liu, S.X. 2021. Pulse processing affects gas production by gut bacteria during in vitro fecal fermentation. Food Research International. 147. Article 110453.
Hwang, H-S., Winkler-Moser, J.K., Tisserat, B., Harry-O'kuru, R.E., Berhow, M.A., Liu, S.X. 2020. Antioxidant activity of Osage orange extract in soybean oil and fish oil during storage. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 98(1):73-87.