In the fight against obesity, many companies are working toward reducing the caloric value of their foods, sometimes stealthily, not telling the consumer of the changes as they try to maintain their products’ sensory characteristics. Formulators are challenged with maintaining the same texture and flavor in a calorie reduced food product as the regular product on the shelf.
Many changes are aimed at reducing the fat content of a food, as fat has the highest caloric value. Sugars are also heavily targeted, especially with consumer concerns about excessive sugar in the diet. But where does a formulator begin?
There is no single across-the-board recommendation for what ingredients work best in reduced calorie foods. Gum- or protein-based gels and high intensity sweeteners are commonplace replacements for fat and sugar. But as a result, major changes are made to the stability, color, flavor and texture of most products. Bulking agents are needed to compensate for the volume loss when removing these components from the formulation.
Ingredients for Calorie Reduction
Fiber (EU) can make a good bulking agent, but the appropriate amount may be dependent on your application. Make sure the fiber’s properties will work with your product’s properties and not cause sensory changes. Using ingredients that can absorb moisture are a better fit for use in maintaining comparable texture in higher moisture systems but would drastically alter production of lower moisture systems due to increasing the water needed to produce a product.
Insoluble fibers (EU), such as wheat fiber, bamboo fiber, and cellulose may work better in applications where less water absorption is needed, like rotary molded cookies, fillings, crackers and extruded cereals. But they sometimes have sedimentation and clouding issues if used in certain ready-to-drink juices and beverages, which might not make them the best choice for your product. Cellulose can add texture to salad dressings and mayonnaise when fat is removed. Insoluble fibers can be added to batters to reduce the fat uptake slightly.
Soluble fibers (EU), like pectin, inulin, psyllium, polydextrose, and beta glucan, can be considered higher water activity systems, like breads, reduced calorie muffins, and puddings. Some fibers provide a slight sweetness that will need to be accounted for in your sensory profile.
Sugar alcohols, or polyols (EU), such as maltitol, erythritol, isomalt or mannitol, to name a few, can aid in replacing some of the textural components lost when sugar is removed. In most cases, polyols are not as sweet as sugar and are included with high intensity sweeteners to maintain comparable sweetness while preserving the texture when compared to full sugar products. Polyols tend to act as humectants, which should be noted when determining if they are appropriate for your application. However, less Maillard and carmelization reactions will occur when using polyols. When considering polyols, look at the solubility, melting point, and hygroscopic nature (ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere) of your selected ingredient, as these may have an impact on the shelf life of your finished product.
Both fibers and polyols have reduced caloric values when compared to sugar and fat. Check with your supplier on their nutritional information, but make sure your regulatory department agrees with their analytical methods.
A Note About Flavor
When fat is removed from a system, the release of flavor is directly impacted, and the flavor will reach a consumer’s tastebuds faster with a quicker and shorter delivery. The fat aids in allowing a longer and sustained flavor release, and it’s reduction influences how the flavor is perceived by the consumer. In addition, a reduced fat product has ingredients like hydrocolloids and starches added which mask and reduce the flavor even further! The addition of creamy flavors will help, but additional sweetness enhancers may be needed to offer the same flavor impact in your product.
When working on calorie reduction, be sure to keep the governmental definitions of calorie reduction in mind. The US FDA requires “at least 25% fewer calories per recommended amount customarily consumed, and for meals/main dishes, at least 25% fewer calories per 100 g.” But the European Commission has a slightly different definition: reduced calorie food claims “may only be made where the energy value is reduced by at least 30%, with an indication of the characteristic which makes the food reduced in its total energy value.”
There are many other areas that could be covered in terms of ingredients to use for calorie reduction, but this coverage on fiber and polyols as bulking agents should help with improving the texture and flavor of your finished product. For ingredients, see the following links within Prospector:
Wheat Fiber (EU)
Bamboo Fiber (EU)
Beta Glucan (EU)
Cream Flavor (EU)
Prepared Foods – Ingredion: Salad Dressing Texture Solutions
Dairy Foods – Formulating low-calorie ice cream
FoodTech Toolbox – Digesting the Latest on Fiber
Food Product Design – Fiber Files
Food Product Design – Bulking Agents: Bulking Up While Scaling Down
Food Technology – Sugar Reduction with Polyols
International Journal of Food Science + Technology – Sugar replacement in sweetened bakery goods
Food & Health Innovation Service – Technology and ingredients to assist with the reduction of sugar in food and drink
Food Product Design – Sugar-Free Formulating
Food Business News – Reducing added sugars, calories
Food Product Design – Texture Without the Calories
Dairy Foods – Formulating low-calorie ice cream
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