Could you believe wood might be eaten if you are after a low-fat, high-fibre dessert? Well, you’re in for a great surprise. It’s the ultimate high-fibre ingredient, a fat substitute with zero calories. But how do you feel about eating wood in your food? Scientists have found a way to add it to products such as sausages, desserts and even mayonnaise to make them healthier and so help in the fight against obesity.

To be clear, the Norwegian export food company Borregaard are not suggesting chewing on a plank rather than a packet of crisps, or adding sawdust to dishes. Instead, by processing the wood they have created a form of food grade cellulose, an edible fibre. A powder created from the cellulose called SenseFi has a high water holding capacity, helping it create that creamiest effect which normally comes from fat.

As a result, they say, the ingredient delivers a smooth, creamy mouthfeel which means it can act as a fat substitute without affecting the texture and taste of products. Borregaard is working with supermarkets and food manufacturers on using it globally, and a number of British firms are also liaising with food ingredient company Healy about introducing SenseFi.

Powdered cellulose derived from plants has been widely used by the food industry under the E number E460, but it has not previously been created from waste wood. Booregaard’s Per Ivars Heier told Food that the fibre can be used to replace fat across a wide variety of products including mayonnaise, sauces and dressings; emulsified meat products such as sausages; dairy products; ice cream and frozen desserts; protein drinks; and cakes, pies and ready meals.

‘SenseFi can thicken and add texture to food without sacrificing flavour or colour,’ he said, adding: ‘The mouthfeel is closer to resembling fat. SenseFi gives both creamy mouthfuls and succulent texture in fat-reduced and low-fat products. SenseFi helps to produce succulent reduced fat sausages and meat patties by restoring the correct texture and balancing flavours, hence offering a full-fat eating experience.’ He also said it could increase juiciness whilst substantially lowering the fat content of emulsified meat products.

Mr Heier suggested the dietary fibre can be used to reformulate products to reduce saturated fat which has been linked to heart disease and the overall calorie count. The ingredient also brings the health benefits associated with fibre consumption. ‘Increased insoluble fibre helps maintain bowel health,’ he said.

Well, it seems wood has multiple uses but no one so far has suggested it as a health food supplement. If however it really works, then its additional use would be most welcome.

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