Scientists create functional 'invisible fiber' for bread that doesn't impair taste

Scientists create functional ‘invisible fiber’ for bread that doesn’t impair taste

November 23, 2022 — Researchers at RMIT University in Australia have joined forces with a technology-based engineering company providing starch processing equipment to develop a starch-based product that resists digestion like fiber in the human gut.

FiberX is designated as smooth and tasteless, but is also suitable for fortifying low-calorie and low-GI foods. It can be gluten-free or added to low-fiber foods such as white bread, cakes, pasta, pizza and sauces.

Adding functional fiber is becoming an increasingly interesting formulation opportunity as consumers seek functional fiber ingredients that address specific health and wellness goals.

Handling the fiber gap
There is a growing interest in functional fiber components as more people link their gut health and microbiome to overall holistic well-being.

University researchers worked with the Microtec Engineering Group to develop FiberX.

Project leader Associate Professor Asgar Farahnaky of RMIT’s Center for Food Research and Innovation and his team used advanced starch modification technology with approved food-grade ingredients to create what they describe as «invisible fiber.»

“We can now add extra fiber to foods like white bread and other staple foods without changing the taste or texture, which has been one of the main problems with many fiber supplements on the market so far,” he says.

“When our product is added, it is not even noticed. It’s like a parent hiding vegetables to make their child’s meal more nutritious.”

Associate Professor Asgar Farahnaky and his team used advanced starch modification technology with approved food-grade ingredients to create what they describe as ‘invisible fiber’.Inconspicuous nutrition
The ingredient is said to increase the fiber content of food products by 10 to 20% while maintaining a pleasant taste and texture, which is a major challenge in the food industry.

Existing foods with added fiber may have a firmer texture or a different flavor than the original product.

As part of the research, Farahnaky’s team performed taste tests and texture analysis on breads and muffins with varying amounts of FiberX added. They discovered that they could add up to 20% fiber to the 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 food so that we can get our recommended daily intake, even when consuming less food, which has the potential to help with weight management and diabetes,» adds Professor Farahnaky.

How does it work?
Co-researcher and senior research assistant of the vice-rector, Dr. Mahsa Majzoobi said the structure of starch has been altered at the molecular level and tested to see how it reacts with digestive enzymes.

“Once resistant starch has gone through this process, it must have high levels of resistance to count as a successful conversion to dietary fiber,” he says.

Majzoobi adds that the team can use this new technology to convert more than 80% of starch into dietary fiber.

FiberX has been tested using internationally approved methods at RMIT and the accredited Australian Export Grains Innovation Center.

Farahnaky said his team is looking at the next phase of FiberX technology, which will use green alternatives to convert starch to fiber.

Beyond its health benefits, FiberX technology also had the potential to improve supply chain challenges, reduce food waste and increase local employment. Researchers have found that they can add up to 20% fiber to food while maintaining the original taste and texture of the product.

Australia currently exports large quantities of grain to create 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 supply chain delays like we saw with COVID,” Farahnaky continues.

«Instead of growing and exporting more grain, we must use existing grains to create value-added products here in Australia.»

To do this, Microtec and RMIT’s Center for Food Research and Innovation partnered with the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Center to stop the starch and fiber-rich byproducts of vegetable protein production from going to waste.

Australia currently produces 5,000 tons of pulse protein per year, which generates 30,000 tons of waste.

By processing this waste into dry pulse starch, the FiberX technology can convert starch into fiber on a large scale, Farahnaky said.

«This partnership will not only help reduce food waste on a massive scale, but will also lead to the creation of new premium food products high in dietary fiber.»

“Scaling this technology will mean that the food industry will have access to large amounts of invisible dietary fiber at an affordable price to provide consumers with high-fiber foods,” he concludes.

Edited by Gaynor Selby

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