(This article covering psyllium husk is part of a series we’re calling Ingredients on the Rise, where we’re tracking emerging consumer interest in healthy and functional food, beverage, and supplement ingredients through a mix of social listening and online research. Read further for insights on the commonly understood benefits and use of psyllium husk, its formulation considerations, and the broader cultural lens that marks its rising popularity.)
Consumers are pretty clear on what they want in available products and what they want are clean, natural, multi-functional products that align with their personal goals. Holistic health and immunity achieved through diet and lifestyle are top of mind. Savvy product development will find novel ways to meet these goals with new technology, and natural ingredients.
What is Psyllium Husk
Psyllium is the common name for several species in the genus Plantago which grow all over the world. The most commonly used is “blond psyllium” or “Isabgol,” the Plantago ovata, grown primarily in southern Asia’s cool, dry regions. The seed husks of this plant in particular have several amazing properties due to their extremely high levels of dietary fiber. What’s so exciting about fiber, you may ask? Well!
The Need for More Functional Products
The vast majority of health complaints in the western hemisphere are associated with metabolic syndrome, a collection of interconnected pathologies and conditions including high blood sugar, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke. It’s associated with cancer, chronic kidney disease, dementia and cognitive decline, depression and insomnia, and increases the risk of severe disease from viral infections.
Around 30% of Americans have metabolic syndrome, and nearly 90% have metabolic dysfunction from at least one of the associated diseases. These statistics represent a huge consumer need for functional products adapted to help them achieve their wellness goals.
The drying method used on psyllium husk affects the characteristics of the final product. Freeze-dried products have a higher final dietary fiber, are better emulsifiers, better stabilizers, and hold more water. But oven drying methods are significantly cheaper and the mucilage still retains an acceptable level of the chief attributes.
Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk
The soluble dietary fiber of psyllium husks offers a potentially substantial effect on the metabolic health of consumers. In 2012 the FDA recognized that psyllium helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and offered a qualified endorsement regarding its use to reduce the risk of type II diabetes. Multiple studies have found that these soluble husks offer the added benefits of a low glycemic index, leveling blood sugar spikes, lowering LDL cholesterol, soothing and healing digestive ulcers, and supporting liver health.
Additionally, it’s a fantastic prebiotic that encourages a healthy microflora and improves the gut barrier. As fiber is a societal shortfall nutrient (with the average American only consuming half as much fiber as they should), patients everywhere are being recommended higher fiber intake every time they get in shouting range of a physician.
Formulation Considerations of Psyllium Husk
Psyllium reacts very well in formulations with starches, performing similarly to xanthan gum (which is not against ‘clean label’ expectations) but providing an added halo of natural simplicity and the benefit of FDA-approved health claims. And in many cases, it provides a greener hydrogel to synthetic options as it is renewable, biodegradable, and gels at lower temperatures saving on energy costs.
Is Psyllium Husk Gluten Free?
Psyllium husk is a great ingredient to add to gluten-free formulations because it is itself gluten-free. When added to gluten-free pasta, it helps to enhance the texture and cooking properties. Additionally, it can mimic the gluten matrix found in bread. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be used as a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier, or binding agent in various food, pharma, and cosmetic applications.
Psyllium Husk for Baking
The hydrophilic nature of psyllium fiber makes it a great addition to formulations that may otherwise be dry. For instance, the commercial production of pita bread has been hugely helped by the addition of psyllium to the dough. The final product is softer, more flexible, and more enjoyable to eat than formulations without. And the fact that the water content is firmly bound in the product means that shelf life is improved, and staleness is delayed. Brands catering to customers with dietary restrictions will be pleased to know that it does a great job of replacing not only gluten but also eggs in baking formulations.
Psyllium Husk for CPG Companies
And the benefits extend beyond baked goods. Incorporating psyllium into ground poultry like chicken nuggets reduced the fat content, increased the weight of the product, gave the thigh meat a paler appearance, and produced an overall juicier and more tender product. Adding it to frozen novelties and ice creams can reduce ice crystal formation, provide freeze-thaw stabilization, and replace mono and diglycerides which are unloved in a world of clean labeling. Adding it to beverages, sauces, gravies, and puddings increases their viscosity and results in a creamier, sumptuous texture.
Psyllium Husk Beyond the Pill
Currently, the bulk (pun fully intended) of psyllium fiber imported to the U.S. ends in mix-in fiber supplements and pills. But pill fatigue is a significant problem in the current market, and consumers feel healthier when they get their nutrition directly from food sources (with the added benefit of not paying for food and nutrition separately)!
CPG Companies Can Meet Consumer Health Demands
Psyllium as an ingredient in functional products gives formulators the opportunity to offset negative health impacts, make healthy products more enjoyable, and edge out the competition with an impressive nutrition facts panel. Imagine a diabetic-friendly ice cream that doesn’t spike your blood pressure, a high-fiber white bread that your kids will happily eat instead of just licking off the jelly. Imagine a high-fiber, gluten-free pasta that keeps you full longer, has a pleasant mouthfeel, and doesn’t garner eye-rolls at the family potluck!
Consumers care about their health. They want their brands to care about their health too. And above all, they want to make healthier choices without spending more money or giving up the comfort buys that make them happy. To that end, more shoppers than ever are looking at the labels. They don’t all understand what they are seeing, but they appreciate recognizable ingredients, FDA-approved health claims, and a nutrition facts panel that does not discourage. This is our chance to give the people what they want.
Applicable Cultural Trends
The consumer consensus of 2023 is functional foods, holistic health, and better-for-you decadence for a healthier lifestyle without compromising on taste. These trends play well with crafting clean-label offerings that cater to specific dietary needs, from gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options to prebiotic and keto-friendly choices we’re seeing in the functional food and beverage and supplement industries.
Working with MarketPlace
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If you have any questions or would like to request more information about our study, please contact us at email@example.com. If you’re working to launch a supplement or food brand or to expand your brand offerings and distribution, we do that too—let’s talk!