Fiber builds nutrient profile of gluten-free foods

by Mari Rydings
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The low fiber content of most gluten-free foods makes adding fiber necessary for building a complete nutrition profile for such baked goods and snacks, especially as the gluten-free lifestyle remains increasingly popular among consumers. Yet incorporating cereal grain fiber into gluten-free formulas does not come without difficulties.

“It’s challenging because there isn’t any gluten and structure within the dough system is required to carry the weight of the fiber,” explained Susan Kay, manager, product applications, Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. “Using fiber in gluten-free products requires formula changes. You may have to incorporate or increase the gum system, non-gluten proteins or other structure-building sources to meet this challenge.”

Water absorption presents one common formulating challenge.

”Water compensation is the first adjustment of a formulation,” said Jie Hu, senior research scientist, Ardent Mills, Wayzata, Minn. “Starch gelatinization increases the viscosity of the dough or batter so the foam structure can be stabilized and the crumb can be fixed. Fiber may affect starch gelatinization by delaying its onset temperature and prolonging the baking time as a result.”

Staling through starch retrogradation poses another issue, one that fiber potentially ameliorates.

“Fiber can affect bread firming in two ways: either by interfering with amylase rearrangement or by changing water migration in crumb during storage due to fiber’s water-binding capacity,” Ms. Hu said. “We believe there are ways to control bread firmness, and there is big potential for applying cereal grain fiber in gluten-free products.”

Keeping these challenges in mind, typical non-gluten cereal grain fiber options include potato flour, rice flour, oat fiber, sorghum flour and corn fiber, all of which are compatible with gluten-free recipes when formulated correctly.

For example, SunOpta, Edina, Minn., offers a rice fiber that contributes more than 90% fiber and imparts a bland flavor and fine, silky mouthfeel to products such as cereals, nutrition bars and bakery mixes.

“We see the biggest application for this rice fiber in the baked foods and snacks industries is gluten-free,” said Cathy Peterson, a SunOpta food science nutrition specialist. “It is a good fit for enriching bakery products, and it’s a good way to increase the fiber content of rice snacks, too.”

The fiber content of gluten-free whole grain flours made from ancient grains such as sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, teff and buckwheat ranges from 6% to 10% and may naturally increase the total fiber quotient of gluten-free flour blends.

“Sorghum flour is a great cereal grain fiber for gluten-free applications,” said Brook Carson, director of R.&D., ADM Milling, Overland Park, Kas. “ADM supplies white sorghum flour and whole grain white sorghum flour for whole grain, multigrain and gluten-free applications. It also works well in cereal applications because it has a clean flavor profile and a crisp texture without being too fragile.”
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