Agriculture

Flax-enriched foods developed to be nutritious and delicious

Flax-enriched muffins developed at the Food 
Development Centre. Photo credit: HealthyFlax.org
With a host of research touting the health benefits of eating flaxseed, consumers are no longer asking if they should eat flax, they’re asking how they can add flax to their daily diets. To provide a solution, the Flax Council of Canada, together with the Food Development Centre (FDC), created four flax-enriched foods that are both delicious and easy to consume.
 
Four flax-enriched health foods
 
Janice Meseyton, senior product development consultant at the FDC, explained the purpose of the project outlined by the Flax Council of Canada was to make foods that fulfilled the requirements of the recent Health Canada health claim. The claim states ground (whole) flaxseed helps lower cholesterol and recommends consuming 40 grams per day.
 
Because 40 grams is a significant amount of flax, the FDC’s goal was to provide a third of the daily recommended amount in a serving of food. They developed four products that each contained 13 grams of flax including a muffin, bread, smoothie mix and snack bar. The project was supported through funding from Growing Forward 2’s Growing Actions program.
 
Developing the muffin
 
The flax-enriched muffin caught the attention of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and is now served to patients around Winnipeg. Meseyton says the muffin is especially well suited to hospital patients as it has a mild flavour and soft, moist texture. It is also much smaller than a muffin typically sold in stores and restaurants today.
 
“The really unique thing about the muffin is it delivers all these nutritional aspects, and contributes to cholesterol reduction, but it’s just a tiny little muffin,” she says. “It’s like the little muffins that your grandma would have made years ago before muffins became huge. So it’s very manageable for someone who’s not feeling too well.”
 
Lisa Casper, product development consultant at the FDC took a leading role on creating the formula for the muffin that was later used by the WRHA. She explained the first challenge she faced was keeping the muffin small. Her target weight was only 55 grams, and 13 grams of that had to be flaxseed. In the first trials, the high flax content caused the muffin to have a gummy texture.
 
“To reduce the gumminess, bread flour and vital wheat gluten were added to the muffin, and all eggs, fat and syrups were eliminated," says Casper.
 
She explained she also reduced the bake temperature and increased the bake time to reduce gumminess while maintaining a desirable level of browning.
 
“One key benefit of incorporating flaxseed into a muffin was that it was able to mimic the functionality of the fat and egg,” says Casper.
 
Her second challenge was to ensure the muffin met health requirements beyond the 13 grams of flaxseed. She focused on keeping the sodium, saturated fatty acid and cholesterol levels low while still maintaining taste and texture.
 
“The muffin is ideal for someone in the hospital because it’s very small, nutrient dense and has a soft texture,” she says. “The main flavours of the muffin are vanilla and cinnamon which are familiar to most people.”
 
Flax-food formulas available for use
 
Meseyton explained that though the muffin is the only one of the four flax-enriched products that has been commercially developed so far, the formulas are available through the Flax Council of Canada.
 
“The formulas that we came up with were very basic formulas that met the health claim,” she says. “If someone else were to take those formulas they could tweak them to make them what they want. More than one person could make a flax muffin, but not be making the exact same flax muffin.”
 
According to Eric Fridfinnson, chair of the Manitoba Flax Growers Association, an increase in flax enriched foods in Manitoba will only benefit producers.
 
“Flax has historically been in the mix of crop options for Manitoba farmers and has potential for growth to meet the demand for healthy products,” he says.
 
For a consumer recipe for the flax-enriched muffin, visit the Flax Council of Canada’s flax information site healthyflax.org. For more information about commercially developing the flax muffins, watch for next month’s edition of Growing News.