Scientists create functional “invisible fiber” for bread that doesn’t disrupt taste
23 Nov 2022 --- Researchers at RMIT University, Australia, have joined forces with a technology-based engineering company that supplies starch processing equipment to develop a starch-based product that resists digestion in the human gut, like fiber.
FiberX is pegged as smooth and tasteless, but it’s also suitable for fortifying low-calorie and low-GI foods. It can be gluten-free or be added to low-fiber foods such as white bread, cakes, pasta, pizza and sauces.
Adding functional fiber is an increasingly interesting formulation opportunity as consumers seek functional fiber ingredients that address specific health and wellness goals.
Addressing the fiber gap
There is an increased interest in functional fiber ingredients due to more people linking gut health and the microbiome to overall holistic well-being.
The university researchers worked with Microtec Engineering Group to develop FiberX.
Project lead from RMIT’s Food Research and Innovation Centre, Associate Professor Asgar Farahnaky, and his team used advanced starch modification technology with approved food-grade materials to create what they describe as ‘invisible fiber.’
“We can now add extra fiber to foods like white bread and other staples without changing the taste or texture, which has been one of the main issues with many commercially-available fiber supplements to date,” he says.
“Our product is not even noticeable once added. It’s just like a parent hiding vegetables in a child’s meal to make it more nutritious.”
The ingredient is said to increase the fiber content of food products by 10 to 20% while also maintaining a pleasant taste and texture - a key challenge across the food industry.
Current foods with added fiber can have a tough texture or a different flavor than the original product.
As part of the research, Farahnaky’s team conducted taste tests and texture analysis on bread and cakes with varying amounts of added FiberX. They found they could add up to 20% of fiber to food while maintaining the original taste and texture of the product.
“This new technology means we can increase the amount of fiber that goes into the food so we can receive our recommended daily intake, even while consuming fewer foods, which has the potential to help with weight management and diabetes,” Professor Farahnaky adds.
How does it work?
Co-researcher and vice-chancellor’s senior research fellow, Dr. Mahsa Majzoobi, said the structure of starch was modified on a molecular level and tested to see how it reacted with digestive enzymes.
“Once the resistant starch goes through this process, it needs to have high levels of resistance to be counted as a successful conversion to dietary fiber,” she says.
The team can use this new technology to convert more than 80% of starch into dietary fiber, Majzoobi adds.
FiberX was tested using internationally approved methods at RMIT and the accredited Australian Export Grains Innovation Center.
Farahnaky said his team is now looking at the next phase of FiberX technology, which will use green alternatives to convert starch to fiber.
Beyond the health benefits, FiberX technology also had the potential to improve supply-chain challenges, reduce food waste and increase local jobs.
“Australia currently exports large amounts of grain for creating value-added products, such as plant-based meat. We then have to import these products back to Australia and wait for them if there are delays in the supply chain, as we saw with COVID,” Farahnaky continues.
“Instead of growing and exporting more grains, we should be using existing grains to create value-added products here in Australia.”
To do this, Microtec and RMIT’s Food Research and Innovation Centre have partnered with Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre to stop starch and fiber-rich by-products of plant protein production from going to waste.
Australia currently produces 5,000 tons of pulse protein annually, which generates 30,000 tons of waste.
Farahnaky said by processing this waste into dry pulse starch, FiberX technology can convert the starch to fiber on a large scale.
“Not only will this partnership help reduce food waste on a massive scale, but it will lead to creating new premium food products that are high in dietary fiber.”
“Scaling this technology will mean the food industry will have access to large quantities of invisible dietary fiber at an affordable price to provide high-fiber foods to consumers,” he concludes.
Edited by Gaynor Selby
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