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God, save the crunch! Scientists are trying to reinvent potato chips

Posted September 26, 2019

Your favorite sports game is starting. Your glass is full with fizzy drink, your friends are excited and you have a bowl of potato chips. How can this be any better? Well, it can if somehow we managed to make potato chips that little bit healthier. And don’t you worry – scientists are already on it.

Creating a tasty and healthy alternative to potato chips requires a significant amount of scientific effort. Image credit: Evan-Amos via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Chemical engineers from the University of Queensland say that they do understand why people dislike low-fat potato chips. They are simply not that good. Everyone wishes that our snacks and soft drinks were at least a little bit healthier, but at the same time unhealthy food is our guilty pleasure. If healthier alternatives don’t have a good flavour, crunch or texture, people are not going to like them. Even subtle changes can alter the consumer’s acceptability of a product. And that’s why chemical engineers have developed a new method to analyse the physical characteristics of potato chips in a bid to develop a tastier low-fat snack.

The fact of the matter is that everyone knows potato chips are unhealthy. However, we still eat them for their flavour and crunchiness. If we wanted a healthier snack, we would go with nuts and vegetables, not low-fat potato chips that do not give us that sense of pleasure. Scientists developed a method of analysing potato chips at four stages of simulated eating: first bite, chewing hard particles, softening particles into a mass and swallowing it. Researchers used the knowledge gathered using this method to produce a  lower-fat chip coated in a thin layer of seasoning oil with a small amount of a food emulsifier.

This new kind of potato chip has just 0,5 % more oil than a regular low-fat chip, but resembles the real deal much more closely. It is greasy, crunchy and delicious. The analysis of the proper chip allowed scientists to create a product, which is healthier, but also as appealing as the real guilty pleasure. And now – onto the other kinds of food.

Professor Jason Stokes, one of the chemical engineers in this research, said: “Whether they be considered solids, powders, soft solids, semi-fluids or liquids, primarily the aim is to improve the efficiency of ingredients in oral processing and improve health benefits”.

People are willing to turn to plant-based food more and more. Some due to their environmentalist beliefs, others – seeking healthier diet. But flavour is still the most important thing that food provides to us. Hopefully, new methods of analysis will help preserve the crunchy goodness for our not-so-guilty-anymore pleasures.


Source: University of Queensland

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