Development of New Methods to Assess the Nutritional Aspects of Cereal Grain Products1
Current evidence supporting the health benefits of cereal grains beyond basic nutrition and consumer interest in the area of functional foods have created a need for novel grain-screening methodologies to meet the requirements of each member of the value chain. In response, the methods used in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC's) multidimensional approach to improving cereal grains have evolved to incorporate an assessment of nutritional quality and functionality during the screening process. These techniques are utilized to support cultivar improvement, develop improved processing strategies for industry, identify potential bioactive components in cereal grains, and investigate overall physiological effects in response to cereal grain consumption, such as glycemic response, cholesterol lowering, body weight management, and gut health. In addition to basic quantification of functional components, novel in vitro and in silico methodologies are being utilized to characterize relevant physicochemical properties of fiber and predict physiological responses. New methodologies such as cell culture, in vitro digestion assays, and model stomach systems offer new opportunities for rapid screening of bioactive components and predicating physiological outcomes of whole grain consumption. Development of new experimental platforms will directly aid cereal breeders by facilitating the development of crop varieties with desired health-promoting traits, while maintaining traditional quality attributes. Information generated regarding the nutritional benefits of cereals may provide processors with new strategies for enhancing nutritional quality and functionality of cereal grains and enable industry to meet the demands of an expanded consumer base.