Think you've tried everything to boost protein in baked goods?

These High Protein Solutions May Surprise You

An increasing number of food products promoting protein on their labels are finding their way onto store shelves. Some of the interest is no doubt fueled by the low-carb and high protein diets that have dotted the landscape in recent years. As a baker or food producer, there are a variety of sources to boost protein.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) (Chicago, IL) points to protein as one of the 2014 functional food trends that is likely to continue. IFT, reporting on Innova Market Inisights (Arnhem, The Netherlands) “Taste the Trend” findings, declares that 6% of new products launched in the US for the year-long period ending in March 2014 specifically called out protein.

The 2015 predictions maintain protein’s strong standing as was announced in the top 10 food trends on July 12, 2015 at IFT in Chicago. Global new product launches with a protein claim grew more than 31% from 2013 to 2014, Innova said, as reported in food business news.  Global Food Forums’ (St. Charles, IL) “Protein Trends and Technologies” short course, aimed at both R&D and marketing food professionals reportedly reached capacity registration three years in a row, speaking to the high interest in this topic.

The USDA Daily Reference Intake (DRI) amounts are based on age, activity level and gender, but for the average non-pregnant, non-lactating female adult, the DRI is 46g/day and for males it is 56g/day. The FDA, which governs nutrition labels places a slightly different spin on it. From the Code of Federal Regulations, the daily reference value (DRV) is a flat 50g for adults and children 4 or more years of age. “An excellent source” of protein is 20% or more of the DRV or RDI, and a “good source” is 10%-19% of the DRV or RDI.

Unfortunately, the most common added sources of protein in bakery products, also fall under the “big 8 allergens.” If you’re looking for alternative sources to boost protein, here are a few options to try.

Bugging Out 

While not quite mainstream in the U.S., 2 billion people around the world eat insects. A team from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) was awarded the prestigious 2013 Hult prize with one million dollars in seed money through the Bill Clinton Initiative, for their innovative approach toward solving the global food crisis. The initial vision was to empower those living in urban slums with a way to produce a highly nutritious source of protein either for consumption themselves and/or to sell as a means of earning money. The team leveraged crickets as an edible, eco-friendly source of protein, both milled into powder form to add to recipes and, as whole insects.

There are pilot projects underway in Mexico and Ghana. Upon implementation, practicality caused the vision to shift slightly, to teaching small-hold farmers to grow locally-accepted insects near urban areas. In the US, the group has established a 13,000 sq ft production facility near Austin, TX. The thought is, by more Americans practicing entomophagy; it may begin to ease some of the stigma associated with eating insects while potentially providing a sustainable source of protein in North America as well.

  • TRY: Aspire Food Group
  • Product: Highly sustainable cricket protein powder and whole insects. Aspire states that “compared to traditional livestock, insects require drastically less feed to convert the same amount of protein; they require far less farmland, and the amounts of water they consume and greenhouse gases they emit are orders of magnitude lower.”

Keeping Your Finger On The Pulse

Plant proteins are viewed as being healthier than those from animal sources and on the sustainable front, to be better for the environment. Pulses are increasingly being used as ingredients to fortify foods with protein. Just what is a ‘pulse’ anyway? It may not yet be a familiar word to consumers, but be prepared to hear it more often. Pulses are the dried seeds from legumes (pod-producers) and contain relatively high amounts of protein, for a plant. Hand-in-hand with the protein are vitamins and minerals in a form that is low in fat and nutrient-dense; Pulse Canada mentions iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins including folate, thiamin and niacin.

  • TRY: Ingredion 
  • Products: HomecraftTM pea,chickpea, faba (broad bean) and lentil flour and VitessenceTM. These flours contain quality protein and are high in soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and resistant starch. For product developers looking for even higher amounts of protein, look at their VitessenceTM line of concentrated protein powders with protein contents around the 55%-60% mark. Ingredion ascertains that pulse proteins offer both potential cost savings and functionality, such as blending, water-absorption and emulsification properties. Applications include bakery, energy bars, snacks, breakfast cereals, noodles/pasta and pet foods.

What’s Old is New Again

Ancient Grains have been making a comeback and show no signs of slowing down in demand. They are known for their relatively high protein content compared with more traditional grains such as wheat and rice.

  • TRY: Freekeh Foods
  • Products:  Organic whole freekeh, organic cracked freekeh and organic khorasan. Khorasan is a nutritionally dense plant based protein that is a smart alternative to wheat. Milled Khorasan brings 20-30% more protein to the table than modern wheat and can be used in cookies, tortillas or breads. Freekeh an ancient roasting process which gives green wheat a nutty and chewy texture that’s versatile. It has high levels of protein, fiber, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Small But Impactful Solutions 

On the microbial front for a way to boost protein, we spoke with Jacinthe Côté, P.Dt., Ph.D. at Lallemand Bio-Ingredients (LBI).  “Whole-cell yeast can contribute significant amounts of protein and bioavailable micronutrients such as beta-glucans which can impart a creamy mouthfeel, texture and emulsification properties to the foods to which they are added.” She continues, “These yeast products can serve as thickeners, fat replacers and emulsifiers. Nutritional yeast can also contain glutathione which is a natural dough conditioner for improving dough extensibility and machinability while reducing mixing requirements.”

  • TRY: Lallemand Bio-Ingredients
  • Products:  Lalmin® nutritional yeasts. A premium nutritional yeast range, composed of whole-cell yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) products. Bioavailability seems to be a key advantage of the whole-cell yeasts. The Lalmin® yeast range offers products that contain elevated levels of key minerals and or vitamins, such as zinc, B vitamins and vitamin D for various fortification applications. Compared to pure forms of selenium, zinc and B vitamins, those found in yeast have higher bioavailability.

A Plethora of Choices to Boost Protein 

Given the growing availability of alternate proteins, product developers and bakers can see that overall, there really is a much bigger group to choose from than the standard dairy, egg, soy and wheat to add protein to baked goods. Depending on the characteristics one is trying to impart to the food…there’s a protein for that!