Resistant starch can be invisible in many applications and doesn’t compromise taste, texture or appearance.

Among macro nutrients, dietary fiber takes the prize for its myriad health-and-wellness benefits. In the form of resistant starch, it doesn’t require a lot of doing to tap those advantages for baked foods and snacks. Plus, this type of dietary fiber just might be the key that unlocks formulating problems posed by reduced-sugar and ­gluten-free projects.

“A lot is happening with resistant starch,” said Michelle Kozora, technical services manager, Cargill. Its role in good health as a dietary fiber is just the starting point. “Resistant starch continues to be used successfully in adding dietary fiber to various food products,” she noted. “Food processors can offer consumers foods that taste as good as ever with an improved nutritional profile.”

According to a report from Global Industry Analysts, the world market for whole grain and high-fiber foods is projected to reach $29.5 billion by 2020. This trend is driven by growing consumer focus on health and well-being. Currently, Americans consume a daily average of only 16 g fiber. There’s lots of room in the diet to improve that number.

Although resistant starch occurs naturally in many heat-treated foods, including baked goods and extruded snacks, it is also offered as a purified ingredient made from corn, potato, tapioca and wheat starches that can be added to foods to boost their dietary fiber content.

The predominant assignment for resistant starch is fiber enhancement — a nutritional goal — but there are functional and formulation benefits, too. “Resistant starch can be invisible in many formulations, enabling food manufacturers to add fiber without compromising taste, texture or appearance,” said Maria Tolchinsky, senior business development manager, global nutrition, Ingredion, Inc. “Resistant starch fibers are also very easy to work with and formulate into food systems, due to their low water-holding capacity, and can deliver ­improved texture and expansion properties in some food systems.”

Such fibers have interesting roles in reducing added sugars and assisting preparation of gluten-free baked goods. “Resistant starch — insoluble dietary fiber — is a good flour replacer,” Ms. Kozora observed. “ActiStar was originally targeted at fiber additions, but gluten-free is a successful use. Basically, it is a processed tapioca flour with good tolerance to mixing, extruding, sheeting and baking.”

Although wheat starch is the basis for Fibersym RW from MGP Ingredients, the resistant starch analyzes as less than 20 ppm gluten. “This meets the Food and Drug Administration’s definition for gluten-free,” explained Ody Maningat, PhD, the company’s chief science officer. “It is suitable for flour replacement applications because of its compatibility with wheat flour that contains naturally occurring wheat starch.

“It is process-tolerant and exhibits low water-holding capacity, almost similar to wheat flour,” he continued. “Formulation changes affecting water absorption are not necessary.” The resistant starch also enables “good” and “excellent” source claims for dietary fiber.

There’s also a role for dietary fiber in cutting down the amount of “added sugars” that must now be declared on the Nutrition Facts Panel on consumer packaged goods. Concerns about obesity and related health issues prompt consumer interest in low-calorie, and reduced- and no-sugar products. When cutting back on sugars, insoluble dietary fibers can make up the missing bulk.

Sugar replacement is complicated. “Manufacturers are responding with new product options that use a different sweetener system while providing a similar flavor experience,” said Doris Dougherty, technical service representative, Fibersol, a joint venture of ADM and Matsutani. “Many consumers equate sugar reduction with calorie reduction; however, that is not always the case. Sugars not only add sweetness but also influence texture or other quality characteristics as well. In an effort to maintain quality, reformulations may not necessarily be lower in calories.

“Using Fibersol has the added benefit of being able to replace sugar in many cases, thus reducing sugar and calories,” Ms. Dougherty continued. This line of fibers, which now includes a new liquid form, adds only 1.6 Cal per g, less than most carbohydrates. “Additionally, it can replace sugars that cause a rise in blood glucose following a meal and help consumers maintain a steady-state energy level throughout the day,” she said.

The company also introduced a combination of soluble corn fiber and fructose syrup specially designed for applications where sweetness and moisture retention, plus fiber enrichment, are desired. “In cereal bars, the presence of fructose will help keep the bar soft during shelf life,” Ms. Dougherty said.