LSU AgCenter scientists make foods healthier, fresher
By February many people may have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions to live healthier.
LSU AgCenter researchers can’t make you go to the gym or eat more fruits and vegetables, but they are trying to make foods more healthful. According to John Finley, head of the Department of Food Science, researchers are trying to reduce the sodium, fat and cholesterol in foods while increasing fiber.
“We are trying to do it in foods that people like, that taste good,” Finley said. “Rather than telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables and they ignore you, we try to find ways to put the healthier compounds in foods that people actually eat.”
And people eat plenty of hamburgers. Work the researchers are doing to sneak in healthier components includes adding beans to beef burgers and omega-3 fish oil to catfish patties.
Catfish has little or no omega-3, so this is a way to increase its nutritional content, said Subramaniam Sathivel, a researcher in the AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
“We microencapsulated omega-3 fish oil, then added it to the patty, and then make a frozen patty,” Sathivel explained. “The patty is ready to eat. You can place it in the microwave, and in five minutes you have a nice food to eat.”
The patties could be incorporated into school lunch programs and sold as an alternative to fattier, saltier standard hamburgers.
Another one of Sathivel’s projects includes adding a green tea glaze to frozen shrimp. Shrimp has a problem with black spots, and the glaze helps the shrimp stay fresher longer.
“The green tea contains antioxidants, so it can reduce the lipid oxidation during the frozen storage,” Sathivel said.
The antioxidants in green tea also have added health benefits for people, and Sathivel said because the glaze is added in small amounts, it does not affect the flavor of the shrimp.
The researcher also is working on ways to make these healthful foods fresher. Sathivel conducts research on cryogenic preservation or rapid freezing of foods. In a matter of minutes this method can freeze tilapia fillets, producing a higher-quality product than other freezing technologies. It also can make foods safer.
“We are looking at the effect of cryogenic freezing on the pathogenic load associated with oyster meat,” Sathivel said.
Cryogenic preservation systems are more expensive upfront than other freezing methods, but Sathivel’s research shows it is quicker, takes up less space and reduces labor costs.