It’s well-known that dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables – like blueberries or purple cabbage – are great sources of the anthocyanins or antioxidants we need to stay healthy.
Those antioxidants are scavengers of free radicals – high energy particles in the human body that can damage cells – which mean they can help fight common ailments like inflammation, diabetes, and cancer, as well as help with eye cell repair.
Colourful grains, like the purple wheat grown commercially in Saskatchewan, provide similar benefits.
In fact, purple wheat is also an excellent sustainable source of natural colorants, and is a promising candidate for the development of anthocyanin-rich milling fractions and isolates that could be used
as health-boosting food processing ingredients.
So promising, in fact, that InfraReady Products (1998) Ltd. of Saskatoon is working on a project in collaboration with Dr. Elsayed Abdelaal of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Guelph Food Research Centre to identify the quantity and quality of anthocyanins in new food products made with purple wheat, as well as evaluate their impact on human health.
“This could lead to the development of healthy food ingredients, functional foods, dietary supplements, natural colourants, and natural antioxidants,” says InfraReady CEO Mark Pickard. “Our goal is to promote purple wheat as a value-added crop for Canadian agriculture and create market opportunities for farmers, processors and food manufacturers.”
InfraReady specializes in flaking, milling, granulating, sprouting and custom blending grains, including its AnthoGrain purple wheat variety, which it originally obtained from the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in the 1990s after the company had discontinued efforts to breed the wheat for ethanol production.
As part of this project, InfraReady developed and prepared six food product prototypes using either purple wheat wholegrain flour or purple wheat wholegrain flour enriched with purple wheat bran to boost anthocyanin content.
This included purple wheat wholegrain bread, purple wheat wholegrain muffin, bran enriched purple wheat whole grain muffin, purple wheat wholegrain pancake, purple wheat flakes, and purple wheat instant flakes.
The products were analyzed at AAFC’s Guelph Food Research Centre for their nutrient and anthocyanin content, and based on the results, two have been selected to move forward to human clinical trials.
“Part of the work we’re doing is looking at the distribution of anthocyanins in the purple wheat,” explains Pickard, adding that most is found in bran, a by-product of the milling process. “It’s still a work in progress but we’re excited about what we think we’ll find and that we can bring it forward in a new way.”
A new line of purple wheat with double the anthocyanins of existing varieties has been developed by the University of Saskatchewan and is now in the final stages of cultivar registration.
Why is this innovation important?
Health: The antioxidants found in purple wheat can help improve human health, including conditions like inflammation, diabetes, and cancer.
Environment: Purple wheat is a potential sustainable source of natural colorants, antioxidants, and nutraceuticals.
Economics: This novel Canadian product could provide new market opportunities for farmers, processors, and food manufacturers.
What does this innovation mean to Canada’s food processing industry?
This technology will provide antioxidant-rich milling fractions and isolates that could be added to food products to boost human health.
About InfraReady Products
InfraReady Products, a specialty processor of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, was started in 1994 by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool to add value to cereal grains before they left the province. Today, InfraReady offers over 250 custom-designed products made from a wide range of raw materials, including cereal grains, oilseeds and pulses, and markets products to other food manufacturers in Canada, United States, Europe and Southeast Asia. www.infrareadyproducts.com.
About the project team
Mark Pickard is the President of InfraReady Products (1998) Ltd., and has a BSA in Applied Microbiology and Food Science and an MBA from the University of Saskatchewan. Prior to joining InfraReady, Mark was employed by CSP Foods and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool for 20 years in a variety of research and technical- marketing positions.
Dr. Amanda Wright is an associate professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, and Director of the Human Nutraceutical Research Unit. She holds a PhD in Food Chemistry from the University of Guelph.
Dr. Elsayed Abdelaal is a senior research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Guelph Food Research Centre where he specializes in grain-based functional foods and natural health products.