Researchers in Mexico found that when baked goods are made from non-traditional flours (or a mix of wheat and non-traditional flours) using the sourdough fermentation process, the result contains more functional properties but doesn't trade off taste or flavor, according to Bakery and Snacks.
Specifically, they noted that flour made from yacon — a Peruvian root vegetable — has high prebiotic qualities because of its fructooligosaccharides (a fruit-derived sweetener). The researchers also said that green dwarf banana flour helps prevent intestinal inflammation due to a high amount of resistant starch, and that taro can help reduce high blood sugar.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Autonomous University of Coahulia, noted that using this information can help food manufacturers tap into today's health and wellness trends. The study was published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.
Composite flours — those made with a mix of wheat and non-traditional flours — have additional assets beyond their health properties, the researchers noted. They're often cheaper and use commonly available crops, plus they divert raw materials from the waste stream. But the study authors cautioned that additional work is necessary to maintain the presence of probiotics in baked goods made from these alternative sources, since most of the microorganisms are killed by baking.
Yacon powder, syrup and slices are for sale in the U.S., but yacon flour only seems to be available online through a U.K. supplier. However, Sunburst Superfoods of Thornwood, New York, recommends that its yacon powder be used in cookie recipes. Big U.S. food companies don't seem to be incorporating these products yet, but that could change as they become more familiar and if consumer demand grows.
Meanwhile, pulse flours — those made from dried beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils — are starting to become better known in the U.S., where they're used to boost protein in food and beverage products. The global pulse flour market is growing and is expected to reach $56.6 billion by 2024, according to a report from Grand View Research. North American demand is projected to see a compound annual growth rate of about 13%.
The appeal of pulse flours comes from the value-added protein they contain and also because they're gluten-free, which is still a popular trend among today's consumers — some of whom may not have a gluten intolerance but believe such products are healthier. Legitimate health claims on packaging can drive that point home for health-conscious shoppers.
So far, chickpea flour is the most popular of the pulse flours, boasting a 30% market share as of fall 2016. And it could be poised to grow even more since a new branded variety just debuted in North America last week.