Student Ambassador Vaishnavi: Functional Foods

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." 

Vaishnavi Vora, is a second-year bakery and patisserie student at University College Birmingham and one of Dawn Foods' student ambassadors. She has a keen interest in new product development and here gives an overview of the benefits of the fast growing functional ingredients market.

Consumers are now more aware of the health and lifestyle choices they make and that includes the type of food they eat. The evolution of food has resulted in the development of the ‘functional food’ concept. In short, functional foods are the bioactive compounds used to fortify food with macro or micro-nutrients used to provide added nutritional benefits. Industry experts claim that the functional ingredients market has seen an exponential rise in the last few years and is estimated to continue growing till 2026.


Functional foods can either be conventional whole foods, already rich in vitamins, fibre, minerals, healthy fats or fortified/modified foods with ingredients like prebiotics, fibre, and minerals added to increase the nutritional value of the food. The most common example in bakery is the use of fortified flour (with niacin, thiamine, iron) to make cakes, cookies and pastries as well as the most recent trend of adding pea protein to muffins.

 

 

 

Flour

Common sources of whole natural foods that can be incorporated into sweet bakery are:

• Oats - rich in fibre (β-glucan) that improves heart health and reduces inflammation.

• Fruits and vegetables – an abundant source of fibre and antioxidants.

• Fibre-rich foods – these can help prevent diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels and managing digestive disorders.

• Flax seeds – rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these promote heart health and boosting brain function.


Functional Foods - Oats

The addition of natural functional ingredients into sweet bakery is relatively simple to achieve. For example, choosing an oatmeal cookie over a chocolate-chip cookie or even adding nuts and seeds to muffins to boost the overall nutrition. The addition of flax seeds not only as an egg-replacement, but as value-added nutrition can also considered.

 

Functional Foods - Protein Bakery

Prebiotics (dietary fibre) and probiotics are the most common ingredients used to fortify bakery products. Both are essential to human nutrition for maintaining gut health. The global probiotics market is forecasted to grow to a whopping $64 billion by 2022. We’ve already seen increased interest in sourdough technology in the bread sector due to its benefit for gut health and there are opportunities in sweet bakery too for sourdough doughnuts or cinnamon rolls for example.


Functional Foods - Sourdough Donuts

The use of technology to stabilise these heat-sensitive bioactive ingredients is seen in the form of microencapsulation, edible film, micro beading or coating. Development of personalised functional foods to cater to an individual’s needs using nutrigenomics could also be the future of functional foods.

This surge in functional foods is seen as consumers seeking out healthy choices beyond supplements. Enriching a product with a particular ingredient can be beneficial when targeting a specific age group or category of consumers. For example, calcium-enriched products targeted for children or the elderly. Likewise, β-glucan, which has cholesterol-lowering properties, is ideal for products aimed at the middle-aged population to promote heart health. Functional foods can be suited to cater for individual consumer needs, from protein-enriched products for athletes to collagen and vitamin-rich food for beauty.