The average American diet has changed a lot over the past 40-50 years, and one of the clearest examples of this change is that people are generally eating fewer vegetables. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only 1 in 10 adults are getting enough fruits or vegetables in their diet. The main reason this is a concern is the potential lack of important nutrients in the population at large. In light of this, many food manufactures have looked to a process known as food fortification to introduce nutrients that might otherwise be lacking.
How Is Food Fortification Defined?
The concept of food fortification first emerged as a strategic method of boosting the nutritional content of essential food items. In the early part of the 20th century, as public health policy was still in its infancy, the U.S. government became aware of a variety of nutrient deficiency-related diseases and disorders. The basic idea was to introduce some of these crucial vitamins and minerals into the food supply by incorporating new ingredients into processed foods, which at the time were becoming more and more common around the country.
The process of fortifying foods involves enriching commonly consumed foods with vital vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. By fortifying staple foods, governments and health organizations have been able to improve public health outcomes, particularly in regions where access to a diverse and nutritious diet is limited. In the 1920s, for example, the discovery of a connection between iodine deficiency and goiter led to the development of iodized salt. More recently in the 1990s, folic acid fortification in cereal grains became standard practice because of the link between a deficiency and neural tube defects in fetuses.
An Evolving Approach to the Fortification of Foods
Many governments and nongovernmental organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency operating under the purview of the United Nations, have been implementing large scale food fortification programs for years. Fortified food products are an effective strategy for addressing various micronutrient deficiencies that negatively impact health outcomes, but they tend to focus on reducing the risk of a specific problem. As ongoing research continues to reveal more about how diet affects health, new approaches to food fortification have become more common.
While governments and food and agriculture organizations oversee the addition of certain essential vitamins and minerals, the shifting attitudes of Americans toward food has prompted food manufacturers of all types to be more responsive to the potential health benefits of certain foods. This has led to a wide variety of helpful ingredients being incorporated into food items that don’t naturally include them. This is why many products in grocery stores have begun adding protein, fiber, or any of a number of essential nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, niacin, calcium, and thiamin, for example.
Apart from mandatory fortification standards, many food processing facilities are now using other kinds of natural ingredients to add some of the nutrients that would otherwise be missing from a person’s diet. So instead of manufactured ingredients (like folic acid that is then converted to folate in the body), food producers are turning to options like dehydrated vegetable ingredients that can address nutritional deficiencies while also providing overall improved nutrition. The added benefit of using dehydrated ingredients, though, is that they can also impart additional flavor as well as nutrients.
Examples of Dried Vegetables Used for Food Fortification
In many cases, the traditional fortification of foods involved synthetic ingredients being incorporated. Though the Food and Drug Administration has determined that these synthetic substances meet food safety standards, there remain some questions about the benefits and risks of consuming micronutrients in this way. This is part of the reason why many food manufacturers are using ingredients derived from fresh vegetables; they are versatile enough to be used in almost any kind of food product while also retaining the natural balance of nutrients that are ideal in human diets.
Vegetables are, of course, well known for being excellent sources of various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, making them valuable candidates for fortifying a wide range of food items. Below are some examples of how dehydrated vegetables can be used to fortify food:
- Flour: Vegetables like spinach, kale, or carrots can be dehydrated and ground into powder, which is then added to wheat flour to create fortified flour. This fortified flour can be used to make bread, pasta, and other baked goods, providing an additional boost of vitamins and minerals.
- Sauces and condiments: Dehydrated ingredients like mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers are a great addition to sauces, dips, and condiments. In addition to adding valuable vitamins and minerals, these veggies add distinctive new flavors to familiar products.
- Snack foods: Dehydrated vegetables like butternut squash, zucchini, and broccoli can be incorporated into snack foods such as chips, crackers, or popcorn. They add nutritional value, flavor, and sometimes vibrant colors.
- Instant soups and noodles: A wide variety of vegetables like carrots, peas, and bell peppers are commonly used in instant soups and noodles to provide convenient and nutritious meal options.
- Meat alternatives: Some plant-based meat substitutes use vegetable proteins, like soy or pea protein, to increase their nutritional value and mimic the protein content found in meat products.
Over the last few years, factors like the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many people to reevaluate their food choices. As a result, more people are interested in healthier food options and food production companies have responded. Having a variety of foods available that include dried vegetable ingredients allows greater access to vegetable-based nutrients that some people (especially in urban areas) may not find readily available. Fortifying these foods can help correct nutrient deficiencies at the same time as improve things like flavor, texture, and shelf life.
Contact Silva for Premium Dehydrated Vegetable Ingredients
As more and more Americans look for healthier (and more cost-effective) food options, the desire for premium dried ingredients has never been higher. At Silva, we are dedicated to providing only the best ingredients that are produced by an extensive network of growers. But beyond offering the ingredients, Silva is also passionate about partnering with you to develop new products that will deliver value to your customers. To learn more about working with Silva, please contact us today.