The ancient grains have a good fiber story to tell, one that’s especially helpful in gluten-free foods. And then there’s a high-fiber barley with benefits all around, explained Elizabeth Arndt, PhD, director of R&D, Ardent Mills, Omaha, NE, in in this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A.

Baking & Snack: What is the difference between intrinsic fiber and added fiber?

Elizabeth Arndt: According the proposed definition from the IOM’s Food and Nutrition Board*, Dietary Fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants, while added fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects for people. Together, these two types of fiber equal the Total Fiber in a food or ingredient.

* This information is cited from: “Dietary Reference Intakes proposed definition of dietary fiber,” a report of the Panel on the Definition of Dietary Fiber and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

How compatible is cereal grain fiber with normal bakery formulas?

Cereal grain fibers are part of the naturally occurring composition of whole grains. Generally, cereal grain fibers are localized in the bran and germ parts of whole grain seeds and less so in the endosperm. In the grain group, barley, rye and wheat are the highest in fiber content, ranging from about 11% for wheat to 17% for barley. Grains like corn and sorghum are in the range of 6 to 9% fiber, while whole grain rice has 3 to 4% fiber.

When formulating baked goods with whole grain flours, proper absorption/hydration is critical because of the effect fiber can have. Different whole grains vary in their level and rate of absorption. One of the common problems we see in making whole grain and multigrain dough is the failure to add enough water. Mix time is also critical; whole grain and multigrain dough generally require less mix time compared to refined wheat flour dough.

How compatible is cereal grain fiber with gluten-free formulas?

Gluten-free flour blends commonly include rice flour and starches which contain 2% or less dietary fiber. This is a concern given that many people with celiac disease don’t consume enough fiber in their diets.

By comparison, gluten-free whole grain flours made from ancient grains like sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, teff and buckwheat range from about 6 to 10% fiber, making them significantly higher in fiber. Even brown rice flour, which is what many formulators look to first for whole grain nutrition, only contains about 3.5% fiber. These whole grain flours can give gluten-free blends a natural boost to the total fiber and increase other whole grain nutrients.

How should formulators be thinking of cereal grain fiber differently than they do right now?

Product developers should consider the benefits and advantages of the naturally occurring fibers in grains before deciding whether isolated fibers are needed.

One of the first questions to ask is whether there is a target fiber claim and if this claim can be met with the fiber that naturally occurs in the grain flour. Other things to consider are the cost-in-use of the naturally occurring grain fiber compared to an isolated fiber, the impact on the ingredient deck as well as the effects on product texture, flavor and color. For example, a grain like Sustagrain barley, the highest fiber whole grain available, can be used to boost fiber while maintaining a mainstream taste and texture.

It’s also important to remember that the fiber that naturally occurs in grains isn’t an isolated nutrient, but rather a whole food source of fiber accompanied by many other nutrients such as protein, B-vitamins, iron, and magnesium.

What potential new applications for cereal grain fibers exist for baked foods and snacks?

There’s an opportunity to begin using other cereal grains, like our Sustagrain or our Ancient Grains line, in things like extruded applications, batters and breaders, and a range of gluten-free foods and snacks. There’s also an opportunity to consider these grains as thickeners in fruit-based and other fillings, allowing the formulator to add whole grain fiber in unexpected parts of the finished food.

What’s next for cereal grain fibers?

What’s next for cereal grain fibers is for developers to understand the myriad options they have available to them, and how these options can help customize their finished foods’ nutritional profiles. A perfect example is Sustagrain. Sustagrain is a waxy, hulless barley that is naturally higher in both beta-glucan and overall dietary fiber compared with traditional food barley and other grains. It has more than three times the total and soluble dietary fiber compared to oats and 10 times the fiber of brown rice. It has about half the starch compared to most other grains, making it a unique option to boost the fiber content in a variety of baked goods and snacks.

By including Sustagrain in formulations, product developers can create products with increased fiber density and enhanced health and wellness benefits. In studies, Sustagrain has been shown to help lower glycemic response, help with digestive function and increase satiety. Sustagrain has 12% beta-glucan and can be used to formulate foods that qualify for the FDA-approved heart health claim based on beta-glucan from barley or oats.

Product developers should also consider taking advantage of recent developments in fiber methods. AOAC 2009.01 was designed to match the Codex Alimentarius Definition of Fiber. This method captures low molecular weight soluble fibers that aren’t recovered by traditional dietary fiber method, AOAC 991.43.

When Sustagrain barley is analyzed by these methods, total dietary fiber is reported at 30% (using AOAC 991.43) vs. 39.3% (using AOAC 2009.01).