This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Yogurt is pretty healthy already, so how do you make it even healthier? Well, Agricultural Research Services (ARS) scientists have found a way - - by adding fiber. They've added very small amounts of a fiber-rich component of oats, called beta-glucan, to low-fat yogurt without noticeably affecting key characteristics such as the yogurt's thick, creamy texture that many of us love.
ARS researchers Mukti Singh, Sanghoon Kim, and their colleagues at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research at Peoria, Ill., began adding oat beta-glucan to low-fat yogurt mix to see how much fiber they could add without altering the texture, viscosity, or other aspects of the microscopic structure of the yogurt. Oat fiber is very interesting to foodmakers and nutritionists because studies have indicated that it can lower serum cholesterol, which may help improve heart health.
Low-fat yogurt mix is made up of low-fat milk and a selection of common, safe-to-eat bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, or various Bifidobacterium species that ferment the milk. Although the potentially beneficial oat fiber was added to the mix, the ARS scientists were determined to maintain its color, pH, and fermentation time. The yogurt had to look good and taste good, in addition to being good for you.
The team determined that up to 0.3 percent highly purified (95 percent pure) oat beta-glucan, which translates to 0.3 grams of beta-glucan per 100 grams of yogurt mix, could be added without significantly altering key yogurt qualities. The 0.3 percent level of fortification totals out at 0.75 grams of fiber, or about one-quarter teaspoon per 8-ounce serving of yogurt. Most Americans don't get enough fiber, so even this small addition would help.
Read more about this research in Agricultural Research magazine, published by ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's principal intramural scientific research agency.