Food scientists, seeking to make gluten-free products more palatable, said this week they have developed a menu of new options using ingredients made from such healthy wheat alternatives as peas, rice, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and other plant-based compounds.
At the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago, researchers from the Alliance Grain Traders (AGT) association said they have successfully used such products to create tasty gluten-free pastas, baked goods, snacks, breadcrumbs, and even milk-like beverages.
Mehmet Tulbek — director of research, development, and innovation for AGT — said new gluten-free foods are tolerable to people with celiac disease (who can’t eat wheat, rye or barley products) and are also low in fat, and high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
"[By using] native functional flours based on tapioca and rice, we're able to achieve texture, color, and appearance that is similar to wheat-containing products while eliminating grittiness and crumbliness," said Thomas, adding that food scientists are also using "pulses" — the edible seeds of legumes — to create flour and starch-like substances in gluten-free products.
The new foods are similar to wheat products in calories, fat content, overall nutrition and shelf life, he said. And because they are plant-based, they also appeal to vegetarians.
About one in 133 Americans has celiac disease, an immune disorder triggered by gluten peptides in wheat, barley, and rye, noted Joseph Baumert, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science & Technology and co-director of the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program at the University of Nebraska.
A growing number of consumers with celiac disease and individuals with a preference for gluten-free foods are driving the demand for such products, said Chris Thomas, senior food technologist at Ingredion Inc.
The international gluten-free food market is projected to grow to $6 billion by 2017.
"Historically, product development has focused on the 'gluten-free' aspects,' " said Thomas. "Now, consumers want nutrition quality, variety, and appearance."
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