The complexity of some nutritional guidance may perplex plenty of Americans, but other messages may be simpler to understand. For example, people may grasp the idea that more fiber and less sugar in their diet may be a good thing.
Food companies may want to provide the dual product benefits of fiber in and sugar out. They should know that such ingredients as inulin and polydextrose may assist in reaching both goals.
The 2015 International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2015 Food and Health Survey gave insight into the number of Americans trying to add fiber and reduce sugar in their diets. When asked what they were trying to get a certain amount of or as much as possible, 55% said fiber, ranking only behind whole grains at 56%. When asked what they were trying to limit or avoid entirely, 55% said sugar, ranking first and ahead of added sugars (54%) and sodium/salt (53%).
Increasing consumption of snacks also may play into more fiber/less sugar formulation and marketing strategies. Chicago-based Mintel this year released a study that found 94% of Americans snack once a day with 50% snacking two to three times per day.
“Nearly all Americans snack, especially younger adult consumers who also are more likely to have increased their snacking frequency over the last year,” said Amanda Topper, a food analyst for Mintel. “Snacking may also be replacing standard daily meals, and this behavior is likely to continue. Americans claim a preference toward healthier snacks, specifically those with simple ingredients and low-calorie counts. However, they most often snack to satisfy a craving, highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on their snacking behavior. There still is opportunity for manufacturers to offer more conveniently packaged and healthy snacks, which consumers feel are missing from the market.”
The survey found 33% of Americans saying they are snacking on healthier foods this year. Millennials are big on snacking as 24% say they snack four or more times per day.
“Millennials are also more likely than older generations to indicate snacks with added nutrition and flavor variety are important to them,” Ms. Topper said. “As a result they may be drawn to products with high fiber, energizing claims or protein content to stay satiated, as well as bold flavors to help add variety to their frequent snacking occasions and eliminate boredom.”
Adding more fiber
For snacks and many other applications, Beneo offers inulin ingredients that are soluble dietary fibers from chicory root. They are invisible and have no off-taste and no effect on color, said Andy Estal, technical manager for Beneo.
“They will pretty much go into a formulation and disappear,” he said. “They are very easy to formulate with.”
Calories per gram of inulin and oligofructose (a subset of inulin) range from 1.2 to 1.5 grams, which compares to 4 calories per gram for sugar, Mr. Estal said. Adding inulin to a product may allow it to achieve a claim of either “good source of fiber” at 2.5 grams per serving or “excellent source of fiber” at 5 grams per serving.
“Because chicory root is a soluble fiber, you really don’t notice its presence in things,” said Carol Lowry, a senior food scientist for Cargill, which offers Oliggo-Fiber chicory root inulin. “So it’s very easy to add up to 5 grams of fiber.”
Inulin, like several other forms of fiber, is fermented in the gut.
“Every individual person has a different tolerance level for dietary fiber,” Mr. Estal said. “Basically, it depends on what your diet is. If you eat a lot of fiber all the time, your body is very efficient at the fermentation process and very efficient at getting rid of the excess gas.”
Litesse polydextrose, a soluble dietary fiber, is 1 calorie per gram and has a neutral flavor profile, said Ramón Espinoza, product specialist for DuPont Nutrition & Health in New Century, Kas. The amount of fiber that Litesse may add to a product varies, he said.
“It really depends on what the end goal of your formulation might be — a certain percentage of sugar reduction, a fiber claim, etc.,” Mr. Espinoza said. “You may want a low-calorie product with a fiber source claim or you may want a reduced sugar product. The beauty of polydextrose is that you can do both.”
Taking out sugar
While diabetics may know to reduce sugar in their diet, a study published on-line May 29 in Diabetologia examined how fiber intake may be beneficial, too. Researchers from Wageningen University in The Netherlands used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-InterAct study and a meta-analysis of prospective studies. They identified 11,559 people with type 2 diabetes during 10.8 years of follow-up, and a sub-cohort of 15,258 people was selected for a case-cohort study.
The EPIC-InterAct study showed that a high intake of total fiber was associated with an 18% lower risk of incident type 2 diabetes when compared to a low intake of fiber after adjustments were made for lifestyle and dietary factors. The findings from the meta-analysis supported an inverse association between total fiber and cereal fiber intake and risk of type 2 diabetes, with a 9% lower risk for total fiber and a 25% lower risk for cereal fiber per 10 grams a day.
A white paper from Sensus talks about how inulin may be used to develop products that support healthy blood glucose levels. Since it is a carbohydrate that is not broken down or digested into simple sugars by the upper human digestive tract, inulin will not affect the blood glucose level, according to the white paper. Instead, inulin reaches the large intestinal tract and is fermented by the gut microbiota.
There are limits on how much sugar inulin may replace in a formulation.
“You probably would max out on fiber before you would use it as a total sugar reducer,” Ms. Lowry said. “You wouldn’t want to add more than 5 grams of fiber. Then you would take whatever sugar reduction comes with that.”
The sweetness level of inulin depends on its degree of polymerization (DP) and chain lengths. Inulin may have chain lengths ranging from DP 2 to DP 60. Oligofructose, a subset of inulin, may have chain lengths ranging from DP 2 to DP 10, Mr. Estal said.
“The longer the chain length, the less sweet it is, but then the shorter the chain length, the more sweet it is,” Ms. Lowry said
Sensus offers Frutafit inulin and Frutafit oligofructose as sugar replacers. The company offers a Frutalose SF 75 sweet chicory root fiber ingredient that is 75% dietary fiber and 65% as sweet as sugar. Food manufacturers also may combine inulin with high-intensity sweeteners such as sucralose or steviol glycosides to add more sweetness, according to Sensus.
Litesse polydextrose also may replace a certain amount of sugar in formulations.
“When reducing sugar, polydextrose would be used together with a low-calorie or no-calorie sweetener,” Mr. Espinoza said. “It provides the texture that is lost when sugar is
replaced by non-nutritive sweeteners. For example, in a snack cake, polydextrose could be used in the cake, filling and frosting and icing to add to the total fiber and assist in sugar/calorie reduction.”
He said replacing 30% of the sugar with Litesse in a cookie formulation may result in a calorie reduction of about 10%.
Fiber may provide other benefits as well.
Polydextrose may improve storage stability and may improve texture and taste, especially in reduced-sugar/reduced-calorie/reduced-fat bakery items, Mr. Espinoza said.
In cereal bars, oligofructose may act as a binder, a source of sweetness and a humectant, Mr. Estal said and added longer-chain inulin has been shown to help provide structure in gluten-free formulations.
When using inulin, possible declarations on a product’s ingredient list are oligofructose, inulin, fructooligosaccharides and chicory root fiber, Mr. Estal said.
“There are a lot of different ways you can label it,” Ms. Lowry said. “You can label it inulin. You can label it oligosaccharides. Depending on the type, you could label it as FOS or fructooligosaccharides. You can label it chicory root fiber, chicory root extract.”