Creating Convenience Food Based on Human Nutritional Requirements

by Dr. Anthony Robson

Anthony A. Robson, Université de Bretagne Occidentale; Technopôle Brest-Iroise, France
Corresponding author: tonesterob@hotmail.com

Diet induced disease is epidemic. Worldwide because the changing food system has ignored the nutrient requirements of people. High energy density and low nutrient density which characterise the modern diet must be overcome simultaneously. Overweight and obese people can develop paradoxical nutritional deficiency from eating high energy dense foods with a poor nutrient content1.

The finding that people with a low energy dense diet (<1.6 kcal g-1) have the lowest total intakes of energy, even though they consume the greatest amount of food has important implications for promoting compliance with a healthy diet2. A convenience food which is not both low energy dense and high nutrient dense dilutes the diet of the low energy dense foods of high nutrient density that humans should eat: the most nutritious cooked wild plant and animal foods for humans1, 3-6.

Our ancestral exemplar is the late Palaeolithic diet i.e. a wild plant-to-animal energy intake ratio ~1:1, with fish and shellfish providing a significant proportion of the animal component7. However, many foods consumers may consider natural are not due to agriculture, animal husbandry and food processing. Furthermore, the focus on just reducing dietary fat8,9 must be refocused on reducing the positive imbalance between the intake and the expenditure of food energy.

Low fat, high carbohydrate cereal based products are often of high energy density. For example a Masterfoods Twix® chocolate biscuit bar: 56% carbohydrate and 2.2% water = 5.5 kcal g-1, Kellogg's Special K®: 71% carbohydrate and 3% water = 3.8 kcal g-1, white bread: 51% carbohydrate and 36% water = 2.7 kcal g-1, while roasted wild water buffalo meat: 0% carbohydrate and 69% water = 1.3 kcal g-1, shrimp meat cooked in moist heat: 0% carbohydrate and 77% water = 1.0 kcal g-1 and boiled celery: 4% carbohydrate and 94% water = 0.2 kcal g-1 (c.f. Table I).

Table 1. Energy density and nutrient density of a selection of foods (value per gram)

Energy (kcal)

DHA + EPA (µg)

Fea (µg)

Zn (µg)

Mg (µg)

Ca (µg)

Vitamin (µg)

B12

B6

C

Oil, soybeanb (04044)

8.8

0

1

<1

0

0

0

0

0

Chocolate, dark (19904)

6.0

0

119

33

2280

730

0.003

0.4

0

Oat breakfast bar (43100)

4.6

0

32

16

1010

600

0

3.5

10

Cheese, cheddar (01009)

4.0

0

7

31

280

7210

0.008

0.7

0

Special K®, Kellogg's (08067)c

3.8

0

270

29

620

300

0.195

64

677

Mayonnaise, light (04641)

3.2

0

3.2

2

20

80

0

0

0

Bread, white (18069)c

2.7

0

37

7

230

1510

0

0.8

0

Beef sirloin, roasted (13953)

2.0

0

17

47

220

190

0.015

5.5

0

Beef brain, cooked (13320)d

1.5

8550

23

11

120

90

0.101

1.4

105

Clam meat, cooked (15159)d

1.5

2840

280

27

180

920

0.989

1.1

221

Egg, poached (01131)e

1.4

410

18

11

120

530

0.013

1.2

0

Oyster meat, eastern, wild, cooked (15169)d

1.4

11200

120

1816

950

900

0.35

1.2

60

Water buffalo meat, wild, roasted (17161)

1.3

0

21

25

330

150

0.018

4.6

0

Shrimp meat, cooked (15151)d

1.0

3150

31

16

340

390

0.015

1.3

22

Banana, raw (09040)

0.9

0

3

2

270

50

0

3.7

87

Celery, boiled (11144)

0.2

0

4

1

120

420

0

0.9

61

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnote:

Entries retrieved from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009) and are identified by a 5-digit nutrient database number in parentheses.

a Two billion people, over 30% of the World's population are anaemic, many due to iron deficiency10.

b Soybean oil provides 20% of all calories in the median USA diet11.

c Fortified with nutrients.

d Food with a high natural nutrient content and a low energy density

e Vitamin B12 in eggs is poorly absorbed relative to other foods containing B1212.

Molecular recognition is biology's building strategy and key to nanotechnology: biomolecules e.g. self-assembled, water-filled, edible nanocells and nanotubes that self-organise into more complex structures13. Using molecular recognition convenience foods can be created in a more natural, low energy dense way i.e. with high water content13.

For example, molecular recognition can be used to structure a chocolate biscuit bar (solid convenience food) similar to a celery stalk, to increase its water and fiber content which will substantially lower its energy density (<1.6 kcal g-1). This would allow the same amount of food to feed more people, increasing food security. Celery stalk cells are pressurised with water causing the entire plant to become turgid and stiff.

Food technologists can harness this natural turgor force to produce a firm chocolate bar, biscuit or breakfast cereal with a good bite while looking and tasting the same as before, to aid public acceptance13. Water carries flavour with few calories e.g. a cup of tea without milk = 0.01 kcal g-1 and taste sensation per mouthful can be improved using the principles of Ultrafine food technology (Eminate Limited, Nottingham, UK); processing food on the nanoscale to increase the surface area that is in contact with taste and smell receptors.

The bioavailable nutrient content including cofactors of convenience foods must mimic and improve on the nutritional value of the most nutritious cooked wild foods for humans and can be increased using existing bioactive nanoencapsulation13. Algal biotechnology can provide the food industry with sufficient amounts of all the nutrients needed for mass scale optimal human nutrition including protein, DHA, EPA, AA, vitamins, minerals and fiber14,15. Reducing particle size using nanotechnology can further improve the properties of bioactive compounds (e.g. DHA and EPA), such as delivery, solubility, prolonged residence time in the gastrointestinal tract and efficient absorption through cells16.

It is important to consider not only the energy content of the modern diet but also the energetic cost of its assimilation. A reduction in liquid calorie intake has been found to have a stronger effect than a reduction in solid calorie intake on weight loss17. Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) require little digestion. Glucose and fructose can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream without digestion.

Functional foods are required to simultaneously satisfy the 'sweet tooth' that the modern diet has created, and have a significantly higher energetic assimilation cost compared to today's sugar sweetened foods. This can be achieved by adding protein and fiber to e.g. SSBs, honey, syrup, jam, cereal products and ice cream (Table II)13.

Table 2. Sugar, protein and fiber content of a selection of sweet foods and drinks (value per 100 grams)

Sugar (g)

Protein (g)

Fiber (g)

Brown sugar (19334)

97.0

0.1

0.0

Honey (19296)

82.1

0.3

0.2

Vanilla fudge (19103)

79.8

1.1

0.0

Toffee sweets (19383)

63.5

1.1

0.0

Maple syrup (19353)

59.5

0.0

0.0

Marshmallows (19116)

57.6

1.8

0.1

Jellies (19300)

51.2

0.2

1.0

Apricot preserve (19719)

43.4

0.7

0.3

Creme de menthe drink (14034)

41.6

0.0

0.0

Kellogg's frosted flakes® (08069)

38.7

4.3

1.8

High fructose corn syrup (19351)

26.7

0.0

0.0

Chocolate milkshake (01110)

20.9

3.1

0.3

Vanilla ice cream (19089)

20.7

3.5

0.0

Cola drink (14148)

10.6

0.0

0.0

Red Bull® drink (14154)

10.1

0.3

0.0

 

 

 

 

Footnote:

Entries retrieved from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009) and are identified by a 5-digit nutrient database number in parentheses. The typical modern diet has a fiber content of 15.1 g day-118 which is considerably lower than the recommended value of 25-38 g day-1 19 or the estimated ancestral intake of >70 g day-1 20.

Protein has more than three times the thermic effect of either fat or carbohydrate21 and because it has a greater satiety value than fat or carbohydrate21,22, a high protein diet (protein and carbohydrate intake both being approximately one third of total energy intake) is of vital importance as a weight-loss strategy for the overweight or obese and for weight maintenance1,23.

Clinical trials have shown that calorie-restricted, high-protein diets are more effective than are calorie-restricted, high-carbohydrate diets in promoting24-26 and maintaining27 weight loss in overweight subjects, while producing less hunger and more satisfaction28. Furthermore, high protein diets have been shown to improve metabolic control in patients with type 2 diabetes29-31. Some protein based nanotubes are food-grade materials32 and can increase protein consumption at the expense of lowered carbohydrate.

Cooking has obvious beneficial effects by increasing food safety and improving diet quality33. However, cooking can reduce the water content of a high energy dense processed food and thus, further increase its deleteriously high energy density, especially if it is cooked twice. For example, toasting whole-wheat bread increases its energy density from 2.5 kcal g-1 to 3.1 kcal g-1 as water content decreases by 14% (data calculated from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference).

Nanoscale science and technology are now enabling us to understand many natural and unnatural processes. Studying nanostructures at the cell and DNA level, gives us insight in to the working of these processes and how to manipulate, prevent and/or enhance them for the benefit of mankind. Emergent technologies can and must help correct the food system by creating modern convenience foods on a mass scale that mimic and improve on the nutritional value of the most nutritious cooked wild foods for humans. Thus, helping to prevent mental ill health, heart disease, cancer, obesity and other postprandial insults1,4.


References

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Date Added: Jul 12, 2010 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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