Bakers Journal

Technical Talk – November 2009

November 2, 2009
By John Michaelides

Continuing our series on the basic ingredients for baking, what are functional foods, what functional ingredients are available to be used in baked goods and what are the challenges of incorporation of such ingredients in baked goods?

Functional ingredients such as probiotics – gut-beneficial bacteria – are increasingly being incorporated into many food products.


Consumers are taking their healthy eating habits very seriously and are seeking to enhance their health through food rather than medication alone.
Thus, there is a great market demand for foods that deliver health benefits to the consumer. The foods that have this capability are called functional foods.

These foods are defined as any foods that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients they contain. In addition to functional foods, consumers might use isolated components from plants, animals or microbes to further enhance their health. These natural health products can best be described as substances that can be considered a food or a part of a food and provide medical or health benefits. These can be isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, herbal products, etc.


We need functional ingredients to manufacture functional foods, and functional ingredients are substances that are shown to possess health and wellness advantages. They can be isolated components or whole foods that can be used as ingredients.

In this technical talk we will mainly deal with functional ingredients, and I’ll describe a few examples that will represent a good range of what is being used today.

Fruits and vegetables
Practically all fruits and vegetable contain substances beneficial to human health. Examples include tomatoes, which contain lycopene (researchers at the University of Guelph are working on improving the lycopene content of tomatoes); red grapes and grape products such as juice and skins, which have resveratrol; and asparagus, containing rutin. The main health-delivering components in fruits and vegetables are powerful antioxidants that contribute to heart health and prevent cancer, diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases. These compounds are present in almost all fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables as ingredients can be used whole, dried or ground into powders. Also, extracts from fruits and vegetables are available as ingredients to be used in the manufacture of functional foods and beverages.

Grains, tubers, pulses and other seeds
Grains, pulses and other seeds are powerhouse functional ingredients. Again, they can be used whole, ground into flour or used for the extraction of other functional ingredients. Soybeans are well documented for their powerful phytoestrogens – known as isoflavones. Oats and barley are characterized by their soluble dietary fibre beta-glucan, which is recognized for its important role in heart health (heart health claims for oat and barley beta-glucans are permitted in the United States). Flax and sesame seed contain substantial amounts of omega oils but, more importantly, plant lignans. These lignans are converted in the human large intestine into mammalian lignans (phytoestrogens) and extensive research has shown that they are instrumental in the prevention of breast and other hormonal-related cancers.

Insoluble and soluble dietary fibres are the main components of grains, pulses and other seeds that contribute to health benefits of human diet. I discussed the various benefits of dietary fibre in the August/September 2009 issue of Bakers Journal. The many fibre ingredients available in the market was also

However, it is important to mention the benefits of soluble fibres as prebiotics.

Prebiotics are functional ingredients that can be incorporated into many foods and beverages, including baked goods. They are very beneficial in supporting the gut micro-flora (probiotics) and contributing to overall gut and immune system health. Many prebiotic ingredients are now available in the market and come from a variety of sources. Fructo-oligosaccharides such as inulin come from chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke tuber. Other short chain fructo-oligosaccharides are manufactured from starch and sugars.

Animal and microbial origin
Fish oil containing DHA, conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 eggs and egg ingredients are functional ingredients that can be incorporated into food products. Galacto-oligosaccharides produced from the modification of milk sugars are prebiotics and can be incorporated into many foods and beverages.

Probiotics are also functional ingredients of microbial origin. They are those gut-beneficial bacteria that colonize the human large intestine, fermenting prebiotics and producing substances that contribute to a healthy colon and overall health of the body. They are incorporated into many food products and attempts are being made to expand their use in many other foods.

Incorporation in foods and beverages
Functional ingredients need to deliver health benefits to the consumer at the point of consumption and beyond (probiotics). So, they need to survive all processing steps and be viable at the end of the shelf life of the food product.

Current and past practices in food processing are focused on providing safe food and therefore rigorous processing conditions are in practice. These conditions quite often will reduce or completely eliminate the health benefits.

Recognizing this issue, many new technologies are now available or being researched to provide gentle processing environments that are also effective in ensuring food safety for the consumer.

Other challenges of incorporation of functional ingredients in food products deal with the taste and flavour of these ingredients, which might be good for you but might also taste bad. For example, fish oil is difficult to incorporate in many foods because of this reason. New technologies of masking taste and flavours such as micro-encapsulation not only overcome this problem but also provide additional protection to functional ingredients. Protection is also necessary to avoid issues of oxidation (fish oils) and ensure viability of ingredients such as probiotics.

Regulatory issues
Food regulations regarding functional ingredients are strict in Canada. As formulators of functional food products we should always use ingredients permitted in Canada and in the case of exports adhere to the regulations of the targeted country. We should also always adhere to Health Canada regulations in regard to making any health claims relating to these functional foods.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has more information about the regulatory aspects of functional ingredients.
Visit the CFIA website at .

Funding for this report was provided in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Adaptation Council’s CanAdvance Program.

Dr. John Michaelides is Guelph Food Technology Institute’s director of research and technology. For more information, or fee-for-service help with product or process development needs, please contact GFTC at 519-821-1246 or

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