Search for better bread starts in the field

A new type of wheat is high in amylose, which helps improve digestive health and ward off Type 2 diabetes

It’s like the mythical unicorn or the fabled holy grail: bread with the taste and texture of white bread that’s also good for your health.

It sounds too good to be true.

But a new type of wheat grown in the Idaho, Washington state and Oregon in 2017 might produce bread, pizza dough and pasta that pleases both mothers and kids.

The wheat is high in amylose, a type of dietary fibre that benefits digestive health and helps ward off Type 2 diabetes.

Flour from the wheat is being marketed in North America as HealthSense.

“We are very excited to launch HealthSense in the U.S. and change the way Americans think about wheat,” said Peter Levangie, chief executive officer of Bay State Milling, which has facilities across the United States.

“HealthSense will deliver flour functionality to our customers and fibre benefits to consumers, enabling better human health through the foods they love to eat.”

Australian scientists, in collaboration with French researchers, have been working on the high fibre wheat since 2006. They formed a company called Arista Cereal Technologies to commercialize the wheat and its unique health traits. Bay State Milling has the licence to sell the wheat and flour in North America.

The Australian and French team of scientists boosted the fibre content by controlling two enzymes within wheat.

“We used a conventional breeding approach … and managed to increase the amylose content of wheat grain from around 20 or 30 percent to an unprecedented 85 percent,” said Ahmed Regina, a researcher with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an agricultural research organization in Australia. “This was sufficient to increase the level of resistant starch to more than 20 percent of total starch in the grain compared to less than one percent in regular wheat.”

Bay State Milling, in a news release, said the high level of amylose in HealthSense wheat resists digestion and acts like dietary fibre.

“Resistant starch has been shown to decrease glycemic response to foods, a factor important in the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes. HealthSense delivers a standardized amount of intrinsic and intact dietary fibre in wheat flour without compromising baking or flavour attributes.”

HealthSense flour, bread and pizza dough won’t be available at grocery stores or restaurants for a while because Bay State Milling contracted only 1,000 acres in 2017.

Bay State is working with a small number of growers but that may change in 2018. The miller is promoting HealthSense wheat for both spring and winter varieties.

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