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Food scientists aim to make plant-based proteins tastier and healthier

UMass Amherst food scientists aim to make plant-based proteins tastier and healthier

David Julian McClements is a respected professor of food science at UMass Amherst. Credit: UMass Amherst

As meat consumption continues to increase around the world, food scientists are focusing on ways to create healthier, better tasting and more sustainable plant protein products that mimic meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs.


7;s not an easy task, says renowned food scientist David Julian McClements, a respected professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and lead author of an article in the new journal Nature. Food science, who explores the topic.

“With Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and other products on the market, there is a huge interest in plant foods for improved sustainability, health and ethical reasons,” said McClements, a leading expert in food design and nanotechnology and author of Future Foods. : How modern science is transforming the way we eat.

In 2019, the plant food market in the United States alone is estimated at nearly $ 5 billion, with 40.5% of sales in the milk category and 18.9% in plant-based meat products, the newspaper notes. This represents a market value increase of 29% since 2017.

“Many scientists are beginning to work in this area and are unaware of the complexity of animal products and the physicochemical principles you need to gather plant ingredients in these products, each with its own physical, functional, nutritional and sensory attributes,” he said. McClements.

With funding from the USDA National Food and Agriculture Institute and the Good Food Institute, McClements leads a multidisciplinary team at UMass Amherst that researches the science behind designing better plant proteins. Co-author Lutz Grossmann, who recently joined UMass Amherst’s food science team as an assistant, has experience in alternative protein sources, McClements notes.

“Our research has focused on this topic,” says McClements. “There is a huge amount of innovation and investment in this area and I am often contacted by various start-ups that are trying to make vegetable fish or eggs or cheese, but which often have no experience in food science. “

As the plant-based food sector expands to meet consumer demand, McClaments notes in the article that “a plant-based diet is not necessarily better than a diet-eating diet for omnivores.”

Plant-based products should be fortified with trace elements that are naturally present in animal meat, milk and eggs, including vitamin D, calcium and zinc. They must also be digestible and provide the full range of essential amino acids.

McClements says many of the current generation of highly processed plant-based meat products are unhealthy because they are full of saturated fat, salt and sugar. But he adds that ultra-processed foods should not be unhealthy.

“We’re trying to make processed foods healthier,” says McClements. “We strive to design them to have all the vitamins and minerals you need and to have healthy ingredients such as dietary fiber and phytochemicals so that they taste good and are comfortable and cheap and you can easily incorporate them into your life. This is the goal in the future, but we are not there yet for most products. “

That’s why, says McClements, UMass Amherst’s team of scientists uses a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to tackling this complex problem.

Coming soon to your household: 3-D food printers, nano foods and burgers

More information:
David Julian McClements et al., A Brief Overview of the Science Behind the Design of Healthy and Sustainable Plant-Based Foods, npj Food Science (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41538-021-00099-y

Provided by the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Quote: Nutritionists aim to make plant proteins tastier and healthier (2021, June 4), extracted on June 6, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-food-scientists- aim-plant-based-protein. html

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