Whole-grain flour boosts nutrition of crackers and cookies.
"Americans don't eat enough whole grains and don't get enough dietary fiber," says wheat expert Edward J. Souza. From his perspective, putting more whole-grain wheat flour into foods that people will buy and enjoy may be one way to help us get the whole grains and fiber we need.
In some studies, consumption of whole grains has, been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans. A former research leader and plant geneticist with A.R.S.'s Soft Wheat Quality Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio, Souza now directs wheat breeding for an international plant science company.
The Wheat Kernel's Three Key Components
A wheat kernel contains three key structural components: the outer (bran) layer; the tiny wheat seed ("germ" or " embryo"); and the endosperm, which takes up most of the inside of a plump, ready-toharvest kernel.
When the miller or baker wants all the grain components for flour, the entire kernel is used. Flour that contains whole-grain components provides more fiber than traditionally milled white flours and also provides more magnesium, from the bran, which may be important for controlling diabetes and heart disease.
The bran contributes additional nutrients, including selenium and B vitamins. The germ provides B vitamins too, along with vitamin E, small amounts of vitamins A and K, and healthful fats. The endosperm yields carbohydrates and protein.
At Wooster, Mr. Souza's research focused on soft wheat, which is used for making crackers, cakes, cookies, breakfast bars, pancakes, waffles, flour tortillas, some kinds of snack chips, and more. Hard wheats, by contrast, are used in making loaves of raised breads, or durum flours, which chefs use for pasta.
The Wooster team's studies are filling in some of the gaps in our knowledge about whole-grain flours made from soft wheat. For example, the researchers sought to determine the dietary fiber content in today's whole-grain soft-wheat flours. In other investigations, the researchers confirmed the value of two laboratory tests that can help wheat breeders predict, early on, what kinds of promising new soft-wheat plants are the most likely to yield superior whole-grain flours for cookie doughs.
Dietary Fiber: New Estimates for Bakers, Shoppers, and Nutrition Researchers
Precisely how much dietary fiber is in soft-wheat whole-grain flours is not well known, says Mr. Souza.
"When we first began looking at information about the dietary fiber content of these flours," he says, "we found very few measurements. Some were based on surprisingly small numbers of samples. Others were based on hard wheats, not soft. And others were derived from old, outdated analytical procedures."
To help clarify this muddled picture, the team conducted what a comprehensive analysis of dietary fiber levels in a nationally representative sample of soft-wheat whole-grain flours. The investigators used a relatively new analytical method, variously known as the McCleary method, the "all-in-one test," and the "Codex fiber method." They tested an impressive assortment of soft wheats from fields and flour mills across North America. For example, they acquired kernels from 13 different wheat-growing regions--from Virginia and South Carolina to Utah and Oregon--and then tested the dietary fiber levels of the whole-grain flours made from those kernels.
They studied five different kinds of commercial whole-grain soft-wheat flours, including some from mills in Utah and in Ontario, Canada, and from a natural food store in Ohio. To discover more about year-to-year variations, they compared flours from each of two different commercial wheats grown at each of two sites in Ohio during three consecutive years.
"We wanted to take as many key factors into account as possible," noted Mr. Souza.
The scientists determined that soft-wheat whole-grain flours had, on average, about 14.8 grams of dietary fiber in each 100 grams of flour. Though this number is only slightly higher than the most widely referred estimate in the United States, it is nonetheless of interest because of the scope of the study and the precision and accuracy of the analytical method used.
The findings were presented at the 2010 annual national meeting of the American Association of Cereal Chemists. Their estimate may be used in new editions of nutrition databases, sources that food makers often consult when preparing those nutrient data labels that appear on packaged foods. Health-conscious shoppers can check those labels in deciding which products are their best nutritional buy. Dietitians and nutrition researchers might use the data when estimating how much dietary fiber we are (or are not) eating in America. Their analyses might, in turn, be used along with other data from other sources to shape future updates of the nation's dietary guidelines.
(Sources: Crop Science, 2011; Cereal Chemistry; Ohio AgNet/Ohio Country Journal, January 5, 2012.)
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|Publication:||Nutrition Health Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2011|
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