Palm oil in wholegrain bread boosts vitamin E

What if we told you that including a slice of wholegrain bread in your daily diet could help prevent stroke and heart disease?

Wholegrains are a very good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the body's tissues from free radical damage.

That being said, once wholegrains are milled, they lose vitamin E rapidly due to exposure to air.

Unless they are eaten within two days of grinding, wholegrain breads wouldn't have very much vitamin E left in them to be beneficial to the human body.

According to Melbourne-based food scientist Oliver Buddrick, most of the wholegrain loaves you see in the local bakery shop and on supermarket shelves have very little to boast about when it comes to its vitamin E content.

However, all that can be changed with the help of red palm oil.

Buddrick, who conducted research on increasing the nutritional values of bread, discovered that adding red palm oil to the baking process greatly increased the vitamin E content in wholegrain bread.

Traditionally, vegetable oils have always been used to fortify baked goods to enhance the volume and softness of the final product.

Buddrick acknowledges that the oil of choice, especially in the Western world, has so far been canola oil, though it has since garnered a bad rep for being a genetically modified product.

"Red palm oil is unique. It is natural and balanced, made of half unsaturated and half saturated fatty acids. It is rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene. Just by making the switch to red palm oil, the baking process can enjoy so much more nutritional benefits," he says.

Buddrick recently completed his PhD in food science and technology with a focus on wholegrains and the traditional bread making processes to enhance the health benefits of baked goods.

The results on the benefits of red palm oil can be found in his newly-published research paper (published in the Journal of Cereal Chemistry, Effect of Fermentation and Oil Incorporation on the Retention of E Vitamers During Breadmaking), co-authored with Oliver A. H. Jones et al.

During the research, the team introduced up to 8 per cent of red palm oil (as compared to 2 per cent vegetable oil) to the baking process. The results charted 4,740 micrograms of vitamin E per 100g of wheat bread (approximately two slices).

Conversely, in the absence of red palm oil, the results were merely 488 micrograms of vitamin E per 100g of wheat bread.

The recommended dietary intake for vitamin E is 15 miligrams a day for anyone aged 14 years and above.

This means that having two slices of wholegrain bread infused with red palm oil will give you about one-third of the required daily dose of vitamin E.

In terms of appearance, wholegrain bread baked with red palm oil tends to give off an orange tint.

Buddrick says the bread may also taste "beany", as noted by some taste-testers, due to the pure variety of red palm oil that was used - the purer the red palm oil, the higher the vitamin E content.

Naturally, Buddrick chose the purer kind for his research.

"Not many people in the world would just eat bread by itself. I think a layer of peanut butter or honey will be enough to cover the beany taste," says Buddrick, who is also a master baker-pastry chef.

He says while bread is rarely bought for its vitamin E content, having a nutrient-rich variety on the shelves can only be good news for consumers.

Vitamin E is made up of tocopherols and tocotrienols. As one of the richest natural sources of vitamin E, red palm oil is rich in tocotrienols, which has potential blood cholesterol-lowering and cardio- and neuroprotective effects.

In his research paper, Buddrick cited that tocotrienols have also been shown to have greater anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that could reduce the incidence of cancer and diabetes as well as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases as compared to tocopherols.

Clinical trials have also been carried out on the possible effects of tocotrienols in the treatment for pancreatic cancer.

It has been said that the combination of vitamin E, tocotrienols and beta-carotenes makes palm oil a super-antioxidant food.

In the course of his research, Buddrick came across references that spoke highly of the stability of red palm oil at high cooking temperatures.

"When you use red palm oil for frying, the vitamin E is retained even after three times of frying with the same oil. In other oils, all the vitamin content is gone after only a single use," he explains.

Buddrick points out that replacing the oil in breadmaking isn't all that hard to do.

"I worked for a big bread company in Australia - we produced 4,500 loaves of bread in one hour and all we had to do was simply remove the tank with canola oil and plug in the palm oil.

"It was literally just a change of ingredient," he recalls.

Buddrick encourages those who bake their own breads to forego the hydrogenated oils and make the switch to red palm oil instead.

"Hydrogenated oils have very little vitamin content left. If you need to use oil in cooking, it's always better to use something that adds value to your daily diet."