A study published in the Journal of Food Science shows that partially replacing canola oil with fish oil in nutrition bars may provide the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids without affecting the taste.
The researchers fortified oat and soy-based nutrition bars with four levels of fish oil (0, 6, 12, or 18 g per approximately 600 g batch), representing 0%, 20%, 40%, or 60% replacement of canola oil. The commercially available purified fish oil was not emulsified nor encapsulated, and contained tocopherols. Baked nutrition bars were evaluated for proximate composition, water activity, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic (DHA) content, and consumer acceptance using a nine-point hedonic scale.
The bars were sealed in opaque bags and stored in a stability chamber at 25°C and 50% relative humidity for 10 weeks to assess oxidative stability. There were no significant differences in proximate composition, water activity, or ALA levels among treatments. EPA and DHA levels were significantly different among treatments, averaging 178.1 mg/serving (for 20% replacement), 488.3 mg/serving (for 40% replacement), and 664.6 mg/serving (for 60% replacement), but none changed during storage. Headspace hexanal and propanal levels decreased over time but were not significantly different among treatments until week 10.
The researchers found that consumer acceptance scores did not differ significantly between the control and lowest fortification level (20% replacement with fish oil), ranging from 6.4 to 6.6 for aroma, texture, flavor, and overall acceptability. These results suggest that non-emulsified, non-encapsulated fish oil can successfully replace canola oil in intermediate moisture nutrition bars to provide EPA and DHA levels as high as 178 mg/serving without affecting consumer acceptability or oxidative stability.