Believe it or not, in those simpler days long ago, there was a buzz of excitement when the cereal mavens first dropped a handful of plump raisins into a box of breakfast flakes. For decades, breakfast-eaters only had a choice of a bowl of milk-drenched oats or corn. Nothing fancy. Nothing too exciting.
Today, there are more milk choices (whole, reduced fat, nonfat, lactose-free, etc.) than there were kinds of cereal years ago. Fortunately, cereals have kept pace. In addition to the bonus of a variety of vitamins, manufacturers have been adding nuts, coconut, berries, bananas and –– to the joy of many –– even chunks of chocolate. One reason for the added ingredients is to enhance the taste. Another is to add more healthful fiber and antioxidants. And in the latest step in this evolutionary process scientists have created a new, explosive way to make some cereals even more healthful.
They are blowing up grains of rice to make a highly nutritious form of puffed rice. How nutritious? Try eight times more fiber and three times more protein and a bunch of other nutrients that make it just right not only for cereals but snack foods and those ubiquitous nutrition bars, according to researchers.
Syed S.H. Rizvi and colleagues explain that commercial puffed rice is made by forcing rice flour mixed with water through a narrow opening at high temperature and pressure. After it leaves the the nozzle, the rice puffs up as steam expands and escapes. The problem, they say, is that the high heat can destroy some nutrients. To solve this problem and enrich the rice with protein and other nutrients they tried a new approach, using supercritical carbon dioxide, and it worked. Supercritical carbon dioxide (which is kind of like a gas and kind of like a liquid) also is used to make decaffeinated coffee and other products.
The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that besides the added fiber the super-puffed rice is loaded with calcium, iron, zinc and other nutrients not found in traditional puffed rice. It’s also crisper and crunchier and has more flavor, according to the research team.