Nutrition Meets Food Science

Expanding Opportunities for Wheat

In the last few years there has been increasing concerns, particularly in the media, about the effects of wheat‐based foods on health, with the increasing adoption of wheat‐free or gluten‐free diets. This is leading to marginal decrease in wheat consumption and it is time to expand the wheat consumption and position wheat as a healthy option.

There is dynamic shift in the consumer preferences to adapting more healthy and nutritional diets focused towards less dependency on animal proteins and environmentally sustainable options. In recent years, the adoption of plant-based food & beverages among the consumers have been higher due to the broader scope of product availability, improved product developments and innovation into plant-based proteins and a broader scope of available alternatives and substitutes. In India, increasing demand for health foods coupled with huge vegetarian population leading to the growth of plant-based meat substitutes. India’s plant-based meat industry has developed various joint ventures between Indian firms and international food processors, who are developing innovative meat substitutes derived from pulses, soybeans, wheat, potato, and other plant-based ingredients.

Wheat Protein in Meat Analogues: Soy is the one of the leading protein sources for producing meat analogues. Wheat can find some interesting opportunities in this segment. Soy Chaap is a popular product in north India, which is expending to other parts of the country. Even though the name has soy but primarily this is made from wheat flour and gluten. It has meat like texture and is being used as a meat analogue. In Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Gluten is being used as protein source along with soy to get a softer texture, especially for seafood alternatives.

Composite flours: The composite flour program was initiated by FAO to reduce wheat imports in developing countries by substituting local cereals, starches, or proteins in traditional wheat products. Currently, there is an increasing interest in composite flours due to their perceived health benefits. Wheat flour can be added with other flours to enhance nutrition and functionality. These composite flours can be positioned as nutritional and disease specific flours, which can be easily adopted as any wheat-based products. Addition of millets to wheat flour will improve the nutritional value of the composite flours, enhance perception and increase the acceptability of millets. Soy addition to wheat flour provides enhances protein quantity, quality, and functionality. Also, legume flours addition improves protein content and quality.

Modification of wheat flour: Wheat flour can also be modified to improve functionality, digestibility and to reduce allergenicity to produce healthy and innovative products to expanding consumption. Some of the modifications of interest would be Enzyme modification (to improve functionality, reduce allergenicity), Extrusion process (to improves hydration, emulsifying, thermal and pasting properties of wheat flours, improves susceptibility to enzymatic hydrolysis and resistant starch).
Thermal and non-thermal (Microwave) heating (to improve physical properties) and addition of food ingredients (to improve functionality, reduce staling, increase water absorption).,

Soy in wheat products: Soy addition in wheat flour will significantly improve nutritional quality. Soy inclusion in wheat flour will not only improve the protein contest but also improves the protein quality. In addition to nutritional improvements, soy fortified wheat flour will improve the functional characteristics of the end products in terms of better moisture retention and less oil absorption.

Lentil (Dal) Analogue: In addition to the well-established consumption of wheat as staple and in bakery products, there is a unique opportunity in terms of “Lentil analogue” for wheat consumption in India and South Asia. Dal analogue would create new a opportunity for wheat consumption in India. Dal analogue is made from edible grade defatted soya flour and whole-wheat flour. As dal analogue is made from inexpensive raw materials, it is less than half the price of Tur dal to the consumers. This has more than 30% protein which is more than 30% increase in protein content compared to some of the traditional dals like Tur, Moong and Chana. As it is a pre-cooked product it takes less than 10 minutes to cook on open flame compared to more than 25 minutes for other dals. Also, this product can be a perfect vehicle for micronutrients fortification to combat deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin A.

Dr. Suresh Itapu

Ph.D. NutriTech Consulting Services Pvt. Ltd.

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