Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

July 4, 2014

Designing healthier new food products

Today’s snack food aisle in the grocery store contains a lot more products than when I was a kid. Back then, we mainly had potato chips and saltines, but not much more. Now there’s a multitude of choices designed to help you satisfy your cravings for something crunchy.

It’s fair to say most of us don’t spend a lot of our time cooking from scratch. “Processed foods” – everything from snacks to boxed dinners – make up a great deal of what most Americans eat. Indeed, the majority of what most of us eat is processed to one degree or another.

Some highly processed foods are not so healthy, especially the ones made with refined flours and ingredients. Some experts think there’s a link between specific groups of processed foods and the obesity epidemic. Surveys in the U.S. and Great Britain show that most people consume less than one serving per day of whole-grain cereals. That’s a shame because research has shown that three servings of whole grains a day are better for us.

In part because of the possible link between processed foods made with refined ingredients and the obesity epidemic, the question arises: Can we make convenient foods that are both tasty and good for us? To put it another way, how can we increase the whole-grain content of processed foods in a way that won’t sacrifice taste and texture?

Into this fray has walked a new variety of wheat, called “waxy wheat.” Waxy wheat was first bred around the turn of the 21st century.

Whole grain waxy wheat has unique processing properties. Basically, it forms a paste at a significantly lower temperature than does regular wheat, and it swells with more water than do standard varieties of wheat.

“Waxy wheat holds real potential for improving processed foods,” said Dr. Girish Ganjyal, a faculty member in the School of Food Science at Washington State University.

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