Bakers Journal

Getting friendly with fibre

January 28, 2011
By Brandi Cowen

Like so many other things that are good for us, lots of Canadians aren’t
getting enough fibre. Health Canada recommends that men consume 38
grams of fibre per day, while women should try to eat 25 grams daily.

Like so many other things that are good for us, lots of Canadians aren’t getting enough fibre. Health Canada recommends that men consume 38 grams of fibre per day, while women should try to eat 25 grams daily. But, the federal department warns, most Canadians are only achieving about half of their daily recommended intake.

Fibre is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre easily dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material that can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fibre is also able to trap fats, cholesterol and dietary sugars, slowing their absorption by the digestive system and carrying them out of the body as waste. On the other hand, insoluble fibre promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk.

Fibre is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.


The problem of insufficient fibre consumption isn’t unique to Canada. Around the world, experts are urging people to boost their fibre intake. As consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of fibre and, perhaps more significantly, the shortfall of fibre in their own diets, the market for functional fibre products is growing. Ingredient and other food manufacturers are rolling out products to help meet the demand. McNeil Nutritionals recently launched SPLENDA with Fibre, Granulated, a no-calorie sweetener containing three grams of soluble fibre per tablespoon. SunOpta Ingredients Group says its Canadian Harvest Oat Fibres can increase fibre content and reduce calories, while enhancing product texture, adding strength and flexibility to fragile baked goods, improving moisture retention, extending shelf life and optimizing processing yields. Meanwhile, New Zealand-based Nekta Nutrition has developed a fat replacer derived from kiwifruit, which the company says can remove up to 90 per cent of the fats in a pastry while adding fibre and other functional ingredients. However, because the product ranges in colour from dark green to brown it can make your baking look very different from what your customers are used to. These are just a few of the ways companies are exploring as potential avenues to incorporate more fibre into both household and commercial food preparation.

Baking breakthroughs
Academics too have turned their attention to the search for ways to pack more fibre into the foods we eat every day.

Last November, the journal LWT – Food Science and Technology reported that a team of researchers from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Fugeia NV discovered that replacing sugar with wheat bran fibre resulted in a sugar snap cookie with 30 per cent less sucrose and the potential to produce a prebiotic effect in consumers. The team found that the cookies were similar in appearance to cookies prepared in the traditional way.

Prior to this, the same journal reported that manufacturers might be able to give their products a healthful boost by replacing some of the fat in muffins with soluble cocoa fibre. The research team from Instituto de Agroquimica y Tecnologia found that the cocoa fibre could replace oil in a chocolate muffin formulation, producing muffins with a more tender, compact crumb. Muffins baked with the fat replacer staled more slowly than control samples prepared with 100 per cent oil. Researchers also found that muffins with 75 per cent fat replacement were considerably smaller than control samples. The team identified a need to improve the changes in the appearance of the fat replaced muffins, as well as the perceived bitter taste and the stickier texture of the muffins.

Finally, in May 2010 the Journal of Food Engineering reported findings from a study on the inclusion of resistant starch and fibre blend in bake-off bread formulations. The research team from Spain’s Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, explored the impact of different types of fibres on partially baked breads stored at low and sub-zero temperatures. The researchers partially baked each loaf for 16 minutes at 170 C, then removed the loaves and allowed them to cool for 30 minutes, until the core temperature of the bread reached approximately 30 C. The partially baked loaves were then stored in one of two ways: in polypropylene pouches at 4 C, or blast frozen until the core temperature reached –18 C, and then packed in polypropylene. The study concluded that the resistant starch and fibre blend reduced the volume of the bread and increased the hardness of the product. The team also found that pectin, a complex carbohydrate that acts as a thickening agent in cooking and during digestion, had a negative impact on the crumb structure of the bread.

How much can you tell your customers about these fruit and fibre muffins?


These are just some of the recent studies that have sought to find out more about fibre. But it’s not just the role of fibre in food that’s been garnering a lot of scientific attention lately. Researchers have also been devoting time and money to furthering our understanding of the effect fibre can have on our health.

Fibre and health
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fibre diet can normalize bowel movements and maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels, and assist in weight loss. Some studies have found that dietary fibre reduces the incidence of colorectal cancer, while others have reported that dietary fibre has no effect on the disease. Still more have revealed that it may actually increase risk of colorectal cancer.

With all this competing information floating around, figuring out which claims – if any – you can make for products containing fibre may be a daunting task. Throw government regulations into the mix, and branding your baked goods with a food claim becomes a very tricky proposition. Let’s try to clear up that confusion.

Health Canada allows three types of claims for food products. Food claims express the composition, quality, quantity or origin of a food product and, relative to the other two categories of claims, are rather straightforward. The rules surrounding nutrition claims (which characterize the energy value of the food or the amount of a nutrient contained in a food) and health claims (any representation in labelling or advertising that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between consumption of a food or an ingredient in the food and a person’s health) are more complicated.

In brief, Health Canada allows the following fibre-related nutrition claims:

  • “Source contains fibre” is permissible if a product contains two grams of fibre, provided no specific fibre or fibre source is identified in the claim, or if two grams or more of each identified fibre or fibre from an identified source are present in a product.
  • “More fibre,” “higher fibre” or “higher in fibre” claims can be made if a product contains at least 25 per cent more fibre than a similar product, as long as no specific fibre or fibre source is identified in the health claim. If a fibre or fibre source is identified, then the product must have at least 25 per cent more of an identified source of fibre than a comparable product.
  • “High in fibre” or “high source of fibre” claims are allowed if the product contains at least four grams of fibre.
  • “Excellent source of fibre,” “very high fibre,” “very high in fibre,” “very high source of fibre,” “fibre rich” or “rich in fibre” claims are allowable if the product offers a very large amount of fibre. In this case, a product is eligible for this claim if it contains at least six grams of fibre (if no fibre or fibre source is identified in the statement or claim) or at least six grams of each identified fibre or fibre from an identified source (if a fibre or fibre source is identified in the statement or claim).

With respect to health claims (claims linking a food or ingredient to health), at present Health Canada only allows functional fibre-related claims. Products containing at least seven grams of coarse wheat bran or at least 3.5 grams of psyllium can be advertised as promoting laxation or regularity. Health Canada does not currently allow therapeutic or disease-risk reduction claims related to fibre.

If you decide to brand your products with a food claim, the government may request that you provide scientific evidence supporting that claim, which can be used to verify your compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. Enforcement of the rules around food claims falls to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which works with Health Canada to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive advertising in food.

Consumers are being bombarded by a lot of competing information about fibre. If your products are already high in fibre, you may be tempted to advertise this to your customers. If they aren’t, you may be considering looking for ways to incorporate more fibre into your baking in order to appeal to health-conscious customers. Given the current rules around food claims, you may not be able to tout all the benefits you’ve formulated your products to deliver. The “Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising”
(last updated May 2009) is available on the CFIA’s website found, at .

If you’re trying to decide whether higher-fibre baking is right for your business, consider your customer base: What do they want? What do they already know? And what are you allowed to tell them?/ BJ

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