How do you want your whole grains?

by Jeff Gelski
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Whole grains
Taste, texture and color may vary based on sourcing and processing.

KANSAS CITY — Whole grain product development has diversity on its side. Foods may contain whole grains with tastes ranging from nutty, earthy to slightly sweet. Whole grain colors may vary from beige to brown-black to purple. Depending on the process, items with whole grains may have a hard crunch or a light and airy texture.

No matter their traits, whole grain products remain in demand. The Whole Grains Council, Boston, said that as of June, its Whole Grain Stamp appears on more than 11,000 different products in 55 countries.

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey revealed 59% of respondents said they were trying to consume whole grains. Women, college graduates, people age 50-80, people with higher incomes and people in better health were more likely to say they were trying to eat whole grains.

The survey also found 21% of respondents said that in the past year they began trying to eat more foods with whole grains, and 44% said they had been doing that for more than a year. The on-line survey involved 1,003 Americans of the ages 18 to 80.

Whole grains may come from many sources, not just wheat, and within wheat, varieties vary.

“There are many different varieties of whole wheat consumed today, some you may have seen in your local market, but others may be less familiar,” a June 30 blog from the Whole Grains Council said. “Emmer (farro), commonly found in the central Mediterranean and India, einkorn from the Middle East, spelt, Kamut (khorasan wheat), durum, red wheat, white wheat, soft wheat, hard wheat… The list goes on.”

Flavor from ancient grains

Ancient grains are becoming more popular for their distinct flavor profiles and nutritional benefits, according to the blog. Formulators may use ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth and teff to experiment with the taste, texture and color of whole grain products.

Whole grains
Teff offers a slightly sweet, molasses-like flavor.

“In recent years there have been several ‘old’ grain varieties that have been reintroduced into the food chain,” said Robert Meyer, director of technical services for Dakota Specialty Milling, Fargo, N.D. “These grains have actually been around for a long time, but modern day consumers were not aware of them. Emmer, einkorn, quinoa, amaranth and freekeh, to name just a few, have become common additions to many whole grain-based foods. They bring many new flavors, textures and colors when used, much more than other more common grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats.”

Though each of these grains may not completely replace regular whole grain bread flour, they may be added into blends that might contain many of the more common grains, to provide for a healthier combination, he said.

“Their use can be universal with all baked goods, including bread, both standard and artisan, cookies, crackers, chips and other grain-based baked products,” Mr. Meyer said.

Ardent Mills, Denver, gives examples of how its ancient grains portfolio offers diverse flavors. While amaranth has a peppery flavor, other flavors range from nutty, earthy from quinoa to slightly sweet, molasses-like from teff. Sorghum, with a mild, lightly sweet taste, melds well with other flavors. Millet has a mild flavor that allows it to be blended with the flour of other grains.

“Buckwheat is a good choice to use when trying to deliver something different in flavor,” said Zachery Sanders, director of marketing for Ardent Mills. “It can deliver a dark, roasted, chocolate-like note in desserts, and the dark brown color can also add a little difference to pie or tart crusts.”

Quinoa flour has a strong, nutty taste, but some people have found that toasting it helps mellow out the taste, according to Firebird Artisan Mills, Harvey, N.D. Sorghum’s sweet flavor translates well into pastries and cookies, according to the company.

Bunge Ltd., White Plains, N.Y., offers a full range of whole grain ancient grains, including quinoa, millet and sorghum, along with a full range of whole grain meals and flours. Honeyville, Brigham City, Utah, and Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass., are two other ancient grain suppliers.

A sprouting process also may affect the flavor of whole grains.

“The sprouted grain flour process creates an environment where the amylases inherently in the grain chop up the starches into glucose molecules that the grain then metabolizes during the sprouting process,” said Susan Kay, manager, product applications for Bay State Milling. “The grain is then dried or toasted to stop the sprouting process. The length of the drying or toasting process can create interesting and unique flavors. In general, the sprouting process has the ability to create a natural sweetness, a mild malt flavor, less bitter, less raw or earthy flavor profile in the finished product.”

Bay State Milling offers a line of sprouted whole grain and seed products under its BeneGrain brand. The line consists of grains and seeds in various granulations ranging from whole kernel or seed, a coarse crack, a steel cut or a fine flour, conventional and organic. The product range includes sprouted whole wheat, rye, amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, flax and chia.

“The textures of the sprouted grains are not as hard in texture with a mild, sweet, less bitter flavor when compared to un-sprouted whole grains and seeds,” Ms. Kay said. “A slight change in color intensity is also noted when compared to the un-sprouted whole grain or seed.”

Texture from blends

Achieving a certain texture for whole grain products may involve blends.

Healthy Food Ingredients offers AncientGrisps, which are milled and extruded from a custom blend of ancient grains, including amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, teff and millet. Besides being whole grain, AncientGrisps are gluten-free and non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. They may work in such applications as cereal, clusters, snack foods, energy bars, granola and confectionery items.

“They are light and airy like a rice or a crisp that you would use in a bar,” said Tara Froemming, marketing coordinator for Healthy Food Ingredients.

Numerous grains and seeds may be incorporated into a snack, cookie or bread in the whole kernel or whole seed format, Ms. Kay said.

“For example, a blend of whole quinoa, whole millet, whole sunflower and whole flax would enhance texture by adding crunch, crispness and hardness to the bite of a baked cracker,” she said. “The developer can easily add a portion of long grain brown rice flour to the formulation to impart an added crispness to the bite.”

Such a cracker would impart a complex nutty, earthy, toasted grain note.

“The intensity of these notes (is) influenced by the other ingredients in the formulation,” Ms. Kay said. “The baking process of not only the cracker, but the processing of the grain itself, will also dictate the finished product flavor.”

Ardent Mills has several whole grains that can provide texture/crunch appeal to snacks, cookies or bread, Mr. Sanders said.

“The smooth round shapes of grains such as teff or amaranth are great for delivering a little uniqueness,” he said. “Buckwheat with its triangular shape is another great option to create something new and innovative in topicals or coatings for bread and snacks.”

Whole grain puffed and expanded corn snacks represent another texture option, offered by Bunge.

Purple comes into play

Corn comes into play for a unique whole grain color: purple.

 

Whole grains
Purple corn may give a distinctive color to whole grain tortillas and corn chips.

Healthy Food Ingredients offers Suntava brand purple corn that is gluten-free and non-bioengineered. An ancient species of Andean maize, Suntava
contains anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids. It may be puffed or popped and used in such applications as extruded snacks, cereal, crackers, bars, granola, flour, meals and mixes.

“It’s a little bit sweet with a nutty, neutral flavor,” Ms. Froemming said. “It’s a really fun product to work with.”

Many grains offer distinct color properties.

“The color palette ranges from a cream to yellow to beige to red-pink to green to a purple to a deep dark brown-black,” Ms. Kay said. “The developer can mix and match the whole kernels or seeds or the milled flours to create interesting colors. Ivory teff or white quinoa would be creamy in color, while whole white wheat or millet could be described as a yellow-beige. Red quinoa, red rice or red corn would impart a red-pink color in the finished product.

“Rye, sorghum, sunflower or pumpkin often are described as green-gray in color. Purple bread has been showing up on supermarket shelves. Purple wheat, black rice, purple corn, blue corn and purple barley are the drivers in changing the shade of bread to purple. The deep dark brown or black colors are often found in seeds, including black sesame, poppy or chia.”

Food companies also might seek whole grain flour that resembles enriched flour in taste, texture and color. Ultragrain from Ardent Mills has assisted in that area for years. Ultragrain comes from exclusive varieties of white wheat that are milder and sweeter than standard red whole wheat. Ultragrain offers whole grain nutrition and white flour appeal, according to Ardent Mills. Pastas, pizza dough, bread, cookies and crackers in school meal programs are possible targets for Ultragrain inclusion.

Ardent Mills may work on products from both enriched flour and whole grain flour at an innovation center that opened this year in Denver. The facility features a lab-sized flour mill, a wheat quality and baking laboratory, a culinary test kitchen, and a chef’s demonstration area.

Meta-analysis finds people who eat whole grains live longer

A meta-analysis published on-line June 14 in Circulation showed an inverse association of whole grain intake with total and cause-specific mortality. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston examined 14 studies that included 786,076 people and 97,867 deaths, including 29,957 from cardiovascular disease and 37,492 from cancer. The studies were conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom or in Scandinavian countries between 1970 and 2010.

People who ate four servings of whole grains daily, or about 70 grams, had a 22% lower risk of death from any cause, a 23% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower risk of dying from cancer when compared to people who ate little or no whole grains.

“These findings further support current dietary guidelines that recommend at least three daily servings (or 48 grams) of whole grains to improve long-term health and prevent premature death,” said Qi Sun, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study.

The researchers noted that multiple bioactive compounds in whole grains could contribute to their health benefits and that high fiber content may lower cholesterol production and glucose response while increasing satiety.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people eat three servings of whole grains, or 48 grams, a day. Whole grains are a source of nutrients such as dietary fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin and vitamin A, according to the Dietary Guidelines.

A majority of Americans consume less than one serving of whole grains per day. Average intakes of whole grains are below recommended levels across all age-sex groups, according to the Dietary Guidelines.

Sorghum Checkoff launches brand, web site

The Sorghum Checkoff, Lubbock, Texas, has introduced its first consumer-facing brand, Sorghum Nature’s Super Grain, and launched a new web site at www.simplysorghum.com.

The web site will share information relating to what sorghum is and how it may be used, said Jennifer Blackburn, external affairs director for the Sorghum Checkoff. It will be updated regularly with recipes, cooking tips, new sorghum products and information on restaurants using sorghum.

The web site also will feature nutritional information, such as the amount of protein, iron, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium and phosphorus in sorghum. A gluten-free whole grain, sorghum is grown in the United States.

“Just a year ago, establishing a consumer brand was only an idea, a big idea,” Ms. Blackburn said. “The launch of this new consumer site and logo further amplifies the strides we have made as an industry. Our hope is that these efforts will help move the needle and make the connections that lead to more sorghum on more consumers’ plates that in turn will increase demand for the farmer.”

The Sorghum Checkoff, a producer-funded organization, seeks to improve the sorghum industry through research, promotions and education.

 

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