Pasta lovers can now have their favourite dish without fear of having heart problems after the development of a new genre of pasta made with barley, a grain famous for giving beer its characteristic strength and flavour.

Consumers could soon see packages of pasta labelled “good source of dietary fibre” and “may reduce the risk of heart disease”.

Vito Verardo, Ana Maria Gomez-Caravaca and colleagues explain that barley, a grain that is an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants, is gaining interest as an ingredient in so-called “functional foods” -- a genre of foods that are supplemented with healthful additives.

The functional foods craze began in Japan in the mid-1980s and caught on around the world with health-conscious consumers, creating a fast-growing industry that is expected to reach over 176 billion dollars by 2013. To determine whether barley could make functional spaghetti by providing fibre and antioxidants, the researchers developed a barley flour, that contains the most nutritious part of the grain and used it to make pasta. This flour corresponds to the barley by-products and has been obtained by a healthy separation method such as the air classification.

They found that the barley spaghetti had more fibre and more antioxidant activity than traditional semolina-based spaghettis. Adding gluten to barley flour improved the cooking quality of the pasta, but lowered its antioxidant activity.

The report appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

More In: Medicine | Health | Sci-Tech