Food scientists have cracked the code to developing better-tasting low-fat foods.
In a presentation at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas this week, University of Massachusetts-Amherst researchers said adjusting the calcium and acidity levels could be the key to developing creamier and more appealing reduced-fat sauces, desserts, and salad dressings that could hit the market soon.
The problem with current techniques of removing fat from food products is that they also compromise flavor, appearance, and texture. But the new technique developed by the UMass-Amherst scientists reduces fat by 80 percent – trimming calories in a typical white sauce from 10 percent to 2 percent – without sacrificing the look, taste, and feel of the food.
"By controlling pH and calcium content, we are able to regulate the interactions among fat droplets," said Bicheng Wu, a graduate student who helped lead the work. "This makes them stick together and form flocs, or clumps. We believe the water trapped inside these flocs makes the sauce seem fattier than it really is and preserves the look, feel and flavor."
Wu explained that fat not only confers flavor and mouthfeel, but also makes food look appealing – "so high fat content gives a milky appearance to a sauce or dressing." Another problem: Low-fat and low-cal foods make people feel less full, said D. Julian McClements, who led the study. But the new technique developed by the research team addressed all of these issues, producing foods that look and taste good, and also made people who consumed them feel satisfied.
McClements said that the team now plans more extensive taste and smell tests on the foods the lab has produced.
"Then we will be able to adjust the composition and incorporate other seasoning ingredients into the foods," he explained. "Since this fat reduction is easy for us now, and the fact that our new products contain healthy ingredients that can be used in a wide range of products means there's a great potential to reach the market in the near future."
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