Farmers in Washington and Minnesota have planted about 1,000 acres of a new high-fiber wheat, with the flour to be marketed on a trial basis next year under the brand name HealthSense. Developed by Australian and French researchers, the new variety is said to contain more than 10 times the amount of resistant starch of conventional wheat, according to Baking Business.
Resistant starch, known as amylose, may improve digestive health, protect against the genetic damage that can lead to bowel cancer and help fight type 2 diabetes, the publication reported.
"We are very excited to launch HealthSense in the U.S. and change the way Americans think about wheat," Peter Levangie, CEO of Bay State Milling, told Baking Business. "HealthSense will deliver flour functionality to our customers and fiber benefits to consumers, enabling better human health through the foods they love to eat."
High prices and low protein content in the 2017 hard winter wheat crop have forced flour users to review their options. Some manufacturers are looking to add vital wheat gluten to improve the protein content of their flour, while others are working with millers to blend it with higher-protein spring wheat. At the same time, the quality of the spring wheat harvest this year was poor because of weather conditions in certain regions of the country, further adding to the woes facing manufacturers.
As the gluten-free foods market matures, manufacturers are getting better at incorporating ingredients that add to a product's nutritional benefits, texture and flavor profile. Reports show that nuts, pulses such as chickpeas, and ancient grains like buckwheat and quinoa are being added to more foods in an effort to remain gluten-free.
Due to increasing consumer interest, manufacturers also are adding fiber to their products where it makes sense as long as it doesn't alter the texture or taste. Added fiber is no longer relegated to older consumers looking for regularity, according to a recent article in Food Ingredients First. Younger consumers also are purchasing products with the ingredient because of the health benefits associated with a high-fiber diet.
Studies have found that eating a high-fiber diet can balance blood sugar levels, aid in digestion, lower cholesterol and possibly reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Nutritionists recommend a person get their daily recommended amount of fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, this hasn't deterred food manufacturers from adding fiber to everything from Activia yogurt to Fiber One ice cream.
The new Nutrition Facts label will require products to include measurements of dietary fibers, but the Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet defined what counts as a dietary fiber. The delay is making manufacturers a bit antsy, according to Food Navigator.
If the flour from this new high-fiber wheat delivers on price and performance for bakeries and baked goods manufacturers, it could add a health halo to the products where it's an ingredient. It will be interesting to see how this farming experiment turns out and whether more farmers and food manufacturers embrace the new variety during the next growing season.