Enriched Fruits Possible With Infusion Technique, Study Shows

March 12, 2012 - News Release

Enhancing disease-preventive and other nutraceutical qualities of fresh fruits can provide extra health benefits, says a recently published study co-authored by Prof. Gopinadhan Paliyath in the University of Guelph’s Department of Plant Agriculture.

Gopinadhan Paliyath“People are faced with a dilemma,” said Paliyath. “We’d like to be able to eat quality fresh fruit like blueberries and cherries even in winter, but it isn’t always available and it can be pricey. We may look to the dried fruit in our breakfast cereal and our granola bars for a boost of fruit flavour and vitamins. Unfortunately, the flavour, texture and, importantly, the nutritional value may be disappointing.”

His research team developed a technique to infuse fruits with combined water, sucrose, soy lecithin as a stabilizing agent, and a natural prebiotic fibre produced from cane sugar. The fibre is found in a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains, but only in trace amounts.

“One reason for using prebiotic fibre is because prebiotics and probiotics work together to support the immune system,” Paliyath explained. “Prebiotics are like food for probiotics, which are the ‘friendly’ bacteria normally living in the digestive tract. They are necessary for healthy digestion and promote nutrient absorption. Also, this prebiotic fibre is only 30 per cent as sweet as sucrose and low in calories.”

The study showed that the treated fruit was less susceptible to mould growth and offered not only good mouth feel and flavour but also potentially increased health benefits.

“Fresh fruit could be enriched with specific nutritional components – provitamins such as carotene, phospholipids such as soy lecithin, and prebiotics to support a healthy gut,” he said.

“Our infusion technology may help the food processing industries come out with a variety of fruit products that consumers could enjoy all year long,” Paliyath said.

The researchers modified the osmotic method of drying fruits, which uses large amounts of sucrose, partially replacing the sucrose with the prebiotic fibre.

Sliced mangoes were most successfully infused. Cherries and blueberries proved more challenging because of their thick skins.

“Although the technology needs refinement, our technique is effective,” Paliyath said. “When we infused cherries with a combination of wine polyphenols, lecithin, sucrose and the prebiotic fibre, the cherries actually became more flavourful.”

The study is available online.

Paliyath plans to look at bright yellow sea buckthorn berries, which contain healthy nutraceuticals including omega-3 fatty acids.

Sea buckthorn seed oil has been discussed on the popular Dr. Oz Show. Juice from sea buckthorn berries is a well-known drink in parts of Asia and Europe.

“A single yellow sea buckthorn berry – the size of a small blueberry – has much more vitamin C than similar-sized fruits,” Paliyath said. “It is sometimes referred to as the ‘holy fruit of the Himalayas,’ but it does grow here in Ontario. I think it would be worthwhile to enhance even this ‘super-food’ if it can help with disease prevention. Fruit is a key food group in a healthy diet.”

Prof. Gopinadhan Paliyath
Research Program Director (Food for Health)
Plant Agriculture/U of G-OMAFRA Partnership
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext. 54856

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

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