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

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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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