Healthy fried food: Is this possible?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food scientists find a way to make fried and salty foods healthier

Food scientists are taking aim at America's addiction to salt and fried food. University of Illinois have found a way to reduce salt in foods without affecting our taste buds. They've also found a way to manipulate food to take up less oil during the frying process. With meticulous engineering the researchers have also found a way to make foods taste saltier without the salt.

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The two food scientists, Youngsoo Lee and Pawan Takhar, professors in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and experts in food engineering discovered that porousness is the key to making processed foods healthier.

Striking a balance is the trick to healthy fried food

Processed foods are laden with salt but we eat them for a variety of reasons that range from cost to taste to convenience.

"Six in 10 American adults either have high blood pressure or are on the borderline of this diagnosis largely because they eat too much salt. Overconsuming salt is also associated with the development and severity of cardiovascular and bone diseases, kidney stones, gastric cancer, and asthma," Lee said in a press release.

Because seventy percent of sodium consumed by Americans comes from processed food Lee decided to study how salt is released when we chew food.

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His finding revealed most of the salt in food isn't released until after it's chewed. What that means is that most of it is wasted.

Next the food scientists focused on changing the microstructure of food by working with the structure of a fat-protein emulsion. The goal is to get more salt released during chewing so food manufacturers have the option of adding less sodium than before.

They accomplished the task by changing the size and number of pores in food.

"When foods crumble easily, we further reduce the amount of salt that is needed. Changing the number or size of pores in the food's surface can help us to accomplish this," Lee said in a press release.

The technique can also be applied to fried foods. Altering the pores in food would mean less oil uptake and lower fat frying. Takhar explains the process has to be done just right however, given the complexity of frying food.

"The trick is to stop when pore pressure is still positive (or less negative)--that is, when oil has had less penetration. Of course, other variables such as moisture level, texture, taste, and structure formation, must be monitored as well. It's an optimization problem."

With just right balance it really is possible to create low-fat, healthier fried foods. Personally, I like fried food, but I try to avoid it. As a nurse, I'm thrilled that people could be happy with the taste of their food while easily consuming less salt. What do you think?

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Comments

Personally, I like real food and am very wary when scientists start manipulating food, including GMOs and "changing the microstructure," as you mention in the article. I would love to see more research on how to keep our real food supply safer and cleaner and focus more on sustainable agriculture and phasing out factory farming than in trying to make fried foods "healthier." In addition, I believe it's better to educate people and promote foods that are already healthy rather than enabling their poor eating habits.
I agree Deborah. When you talk about using fat emulsifiers to alter food's porousness you wonder what other dangers could lurk. But perhaps it is the lesser of two evils? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.