You can count on insoluble dietary fiber to improve gut health. But what’s the best way to put it into baked foods? Jit Ang, executive vice-president, technical services, International Fiber Corp., North Tonawanda, NY, provides practical advice about usage levels and processing methods for making profitable fiber-enhanced products.

Baking & Snack: How does dietary fiber foster better digestive health in humans? Can you share recent research that supports this capability or describes mechanism for this activity?

Jit Ang: Insoluble fiber, the most commonly known digestion helper, has long been hailed for maintaining regular bowel movements and reducing constipation. These distinctions persist despite more recent studies that indicate additional benefits such as reducing transit time of toxins through the colon and balancing colonic pH, both of which may help to prevent colon cancer.

Insoluble fibers such as cellulose helps cleanse the digestive tract and appear to have a beneficial effect upon the formation of feces and their evacuation. Insoluble fibers act as a sponge to hold toxins and sweep the walls of the colon during elimination. If we do not consume an adequate amount of this fiber, waste matter accumulates in the body, reducing its efficiency and setting the stage for degenerative diseases.

Increasing intakes of dietary fibers and fiber supplements can prevent or ameliorate constipation by softening and adding bulk to stool and by speeding its passage through the colon (1). Fiber supplements (including cellulose) have been found to be effective in treating constipation (2).

High fiber intakes are associated with decreased risk of diverticulosis, a relatively common condition that is characterized by the formation of small pouches (diverticula) in the colon (3). The protective effect of dietary fiber against diverticular disease was strongest for non-viscous dietary fiber, particularly cellulose (4).

(1) Marlett JA, McBurney MI, Slavin JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002; 102(7):993-1000.
(2) Institute of Medicine. Dietary, Functional, and Total Fiber. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, D. C.: National Academies Press; 2002:265-334.
(3) Farrell RJ, Farrell JJ, Morrin MM. Diverticular disease in the elderly. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2001;30(2):475-496.
(4) Aldoori WH, Giovannucci EL, Rockett HR, Sampson L, Rimm EB, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary fiber types and symptomatic diverticular disease in men. J Nutr. 1998; 128(4):714-719.

What do formulators need to know about the way these ingredients perform during preparation and processing? Are there limits — regulatory and/or practical — on usage levels in formulations?

In general, fibers tend to absorb a lot of water in the formulation compared to other ingredients. Hence water levels in a specific baked product formulation should be adjusted depending on the type of fiber used. Typically, longer fibers absorb and retain more water than shorter ones.

Breads: Formulators have to adjust their product formulations depending on the type of product and method used to make the product. In high fiber, whole grain breads, addition of fibers needs several processing adjustments including increased water absorption and longer mixing and fermentation times. Also, optimization of the amounts of wheat gluten and emulsifiers added would help to improve the dough strength and gluten network. Incorporation of honey into this formulation can mask the bitter taste of the finished product normally associated with the use of bran. If the sponge-and-dough method is used, all fibers in the formulation should be added in the dough for best results. Addition of fibers in the sponge would interfere with yeast activity and may collapse the bread while proofing and/or baking.

Cakes and muffins: In case of products made with batters such as whole wheat muffins and layer cakes where the product symmetry and volume is of importance, optimizing the batter viscosity with water adjustments may be crucial. Using higher levels of emulsifiers to improve the batter aeration capacity will also result in better mouthfeel and texture of finished product.

English muffins: Optimizing water addition, increasing the level of gluten and changing the mixing time are recommended to get good finished products. Maintaining a low (around 20°C) dough temperature during mixing is another important factor to obtain nice ‘nooks and crannies’ in the finished product.

Wheat flour tortilla: Optimizing the formulation with appropriate water addition is critical to controlling breakage and processing problems in tortillas.

Pasta: Improper mixing can result in doughs with tacky properties. For best results, addition of water should be slow and gradual to allow formulation components to absorb the water uniformly.

Fried foods: Viscosity of batter should be adjusted with proper water levels in order to attain the maximum benefits of adding fiber to a batter formulation.

Although there are no regulatory limits on the levels of fibers that can be added to a baking formulation, the use of fibers in most of these products are self-limiting. From a practical perspective, the following are typical upper limits of fibers used in a product without adverse effects: breads (8 to 9%), muffins (4 to 5%), layer cakes (2 to 3%), pound cakes (4 to 5%), cookies (5 to 6%), biscuits (5 to 6%), pasta (4 to 5%), wheat flour tortillas (4 to 5%), pizza crusts (4 to 5%) and English muffins (4 to 5%).

What ingredients does International Fiber Corp. offer that help create such applications in the baked foods and snacks categories?

We offer Solka-Floc powdered cellulose, as well as JustFiber in white wheat fiber, bamboo fiber, cottonseed fiber, sugar cane fiber, pea fiber (inner pea fiber, outer pea fiber), oat fiber and potato fiber. Oat fiber is also available in an organic version. All above fibers are derived from natural sources and the oat fiber can be labeled as natural.

In addition, IFC distributes Fibrex sugar beet fiber. Sugar beet fibers are also available in an organic version and can be labeled as natural.

All fibers above are available in different fiber lengths and particle sizes.

Some of the benefits of using these fiber ingredients in baked and snack foods include increasing dietary fiber content (while reducing calories), and improving product volume while reducing shrinkage. Some fibers can also improve structure and reduce breakage in baked snacks. In certain fried foods such as donuts, fiber can help to reduce fat pick up therefore improving the nutritional properties of the end product.

Are your ingredients better in some applications than others? What types of baked foods and snacks make the best use of these materials?

In general, applications of our mostly insoluble fibers are interchangeable i.e. same fiber can be used in different applications. However, the functionality of certain fibers can be product and application specific. Some of the examples are:

Wafer-type snacks: JustFiber BFC 40 (bamboo fiber) is recommended for reducing breakage. Alternatively to increase crunchiness, JustFiber WWF 40 is useful.

Pasta: Solka-Floc 200 FCC is preferred over the longer fibers such as Solka-Floc 900 FCC since it has less impact on the water absorption properties of the dough.

Fried foods: Longer fibers can reduce the fat pick-up more effectively than shorter fibers and Solka-Floc 900 FCC is preferable in most cases. However, using of only longer fibers may results in relatively dry finished product. Therefore, a balance between using a combination of shorter and longer fibers to control this is sometimes adapted. For example, in beignet-type donut, using a combination of longer fiber (JustFiber SC C40) and a short fiber (Solka-Floc 200 FCC) is useful to achieve better texture along with the benefit of fat reduction.

Following are the most commonly used fibers in specific applications.

  • Breads: Solka-Floc 200 FCC, JustFiber BVF 200, JustFiber SC 200, JustFiber WWF 200
  • Cakes and muffins: Solka-Floc 900 FCC, Solka-Floc 200 FCC
  • Cookies: Solka-Floc 300 FCC, JustFiber BF 200
  • Fried foods: Solka-Floc 900 FCC, Fiber SC C40
  • English muffins: JustFiber WWF 200, Solka-Floc 200 FCC
  • Waffles, pancakes: Solka-Floc 900 FCC, Solka-Floc 200 FCC, JustFiber SC C40, JustFiber SC 200
  • Biscuits: Solka-Floc 200 FCC
  • Pizza dough: JustFiber WWF 200, Solka-Floc 900 FCC, Solka-Floc 200 FCC
  • Pasta: JustFiber WWF 200, Solka-Floc 200 FCC
  • Wheat flour tortilla: Solka-Floc 200 FCC, JustFiber WWF 200.

What do you hear from customers and consumers about the finished products made with these ingredients? How well have they been accepted in the marketplace?

Our Solka-Floc and JustFiber brands of dietary fiber ingredients have been widely used and accepted for decades by customers and consumers in the baking, pet food, meat, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries.

Additionally, we provide the Fibrex brand of sugar beet fiber, which is two thirds insoluble and one third soluble, the most prominent sugar beet fiber in the world

Whether for calorie reduction, fiber enrichment, or simply, to improve overall functionality, these fibers are known to perform. And, the sugar beet fiber has been proven to lower blood glucose levels.

With the growing interest in gluten-free products, our fibers have been shown to improve texture, structure and taste of this product category as well.

In 2006, International Fiber was honored to tie in first place for the third annual Readers Choice Awards presented by Wellness Foods.