Ancient grains, whole grains, nutritional seeds, and super seeds. They offer protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants all in one tiny package. These nutritional powerhouses provide benefits associated with heart health, weight management, immunity, and overall wellness.
Consumers are increasingly aware of these tiny yet mighty whole ingredients. According to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, the Netherlands (www.innovadatabase.com), launch numbers for food and drink products containing grains such as quinoa, chia, buckwheat, hemp, and amaranth have been rising strongly in recent years (Innova, 2013). Take a quick look on the internet at nutrition blogs and social media sites like Pinterest. You will find recipes, nutritional information, and reported health benefits for whole grains and seeds like quinoa and chia. These fit some or all of the trends, including whole food ingredients, less processed, gluten-free, and low carbohydrates.
Today’s mainstream whole grains include oats, whole wheat, barley, and brown rice. They boast reported health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and weight control. Kristensen et al. (2012) demonstrated a potential cardio-protective role for whole grain. The researchers studied the effect of replacing refined wheat with whole grain wheat for 12 weeks on body weight and composition in 79 overweight or obese postmenopausal women. They found that consumption of whole grain products resulted in a greater reduction in the percentage of fat mass, whereas body weight changes did not differ between the subjects who consumed refined wheat and the subjects who consumed whole grain wheat. Serum total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol increased in those who consumed refined wheat but not whole grain wheat, which may suggest a cardioprotective role for whole grain.
Brown rice has been linked to healthier diets and weight management (USA Rice, 2012b). At the 2012 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo, research was presented showing that white or brown rice provided a high level of satisfaction and fullness. Researchers at the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota conducted a human clinical trial to look at the impact of brown and white rice on satiety in 20 normal weight adult subjects. The results showed that satiety differed significantly, with subjects reporting increased satisfaction and fullness after eating the white rice or brown rice compared to consuming a glucose beverage.
Additionally, a study presented at Experimental Biology 2012 showed eating white or brown rice helped improve diet and manage weight and other risk factors for disease (USA Rice, 2012a). The research conducted at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition was based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007–2008, and revealed that people who ate rice consumed significantly more folic acid, iron, potassium, and vitamins B-6, B-12, A, and D, and consumed a lower percentage of calories from fat and saturated fat. The benefits of brown rice are that it is a whole grain, gluten-free, and low allergen, and it contributes more than 15 vitamins and minerals.
In addition to whole grain ingredients, ingredient manufacturers offer various whole grain flours for product developers. For example, Horizon Milling, a joint venture of Cargill and CHS, Wayzata, Minn. (www.horizonmilling.com), provides whole wheat flour products, including white spring, stone ground, cracked, and crushed whole wheat flours. WheatSelect® whole wheat flour is milled to a granulation size that preserves the whole grain properties and performs well in a wide variety of baking applications.
ConAgra Mills, Omaha, Neb. (www.conagramills.com), offers Ultragrain® whole wheat flour, made from a proprietary variety of wheat, specially grown to have a sweeter, milder taste and lighter color than conventional wheat. The whole wheat is ground using a patented milling technology that maintains the flour’s mild taste and develops the smooth texture, while preserving the fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other essential vitamins and minerals found in the whole wheat bran and germ.
Ancient grains are increasingly being used in products such as breads, cereals, and bars. The Whole Grains Council, Boston, Mass. (www.wholegrainscouncil.org), offers the following description of ancient grains on its website. “Traditionally hailing from South and Central America, Asia, and Africa, an ‘ancient grain’ refers to grains or seeds that are just that: ancient,” the website states. “These seeds haven’t been modified over time by plant science. Most ‘modern grains’ have been extensively cross-bred to make them easier to grow and ultimately process, while ancient grains remain closer to their original form. Because of this, ancient grains retain a distinctive and rich nutty flavor sure to round out any meal, and are full of beneficial fiber, protein, and other nutrients.”
Ingredient suppliers are helping companies to capitalize on the ancient grain trend with new ingredient offerings. Corbion, Lenexa, Kan.(www.corbion.com), in 2013 introduced Hydrated Ancient Grains, a soaked grain product. Hydrated Ancient Grains contains amaranth, quinoa, and chia, which are all high in protein. The grains are easily added to current bread formulas, can be added on top of current formulations, and contain a blend of hydrated and cooked (soaked) seeds and grains.
Quinoa is one of today’s most recognizable ancient grains. According to Innova, launches of products containing quinoa rose nearly 50% over the 12 months ending September 2013, and have risen more than five-fold over a five-year period. In addition to finding a place in a variety of different grain-based food categories, the use of quinoa in other food product categories is rising and now includes confectionery, beverages, ready meals, and baby foods. There is also a focus on gluten-free formulations; 38% of launches that featured quinoa used a gluten-free positioning. Quinoa is also a good source of protein and offers essential amino acids as well as potassium.