Whole wheat makeover
Katarina Smolkova, Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) | August 22, 2014
Whole wheat pasta is a high-fibre, healthy alternative to traditional white flour pasta, but its texture may be too soft for some people. Now, a University of Guelph researcher is trying to change that by studying how gluten influences texture, so that manufacturers can make whole wheat pasta more palatable.
Jayne Bock, a food science researcher at the University of Guelph, hopes this will help consumers increase their fibre consumption.
“We want consumers to consume more whole-grain products because of the health implications,” she says.
Traditional whole-wheat pasta doesn’t give a firm bite.
“It’s very mushy, and people pick up on that,” Bock says. The texture deters consumers from eating healthier versions of their favourite foods.
Bock studies how gluten – a wheat protein that provides structure and elasticity – behaves in whole wheat. She says understanding that behaviour will help processors achieve a whole-wheat texture that pleases pasta eaters.
Whole wheat pasta exhibits a looser gluten structure, which doesn’t hold starch granules in place. When these starch granules “leak” into the cooking water, the pasta loses its firmness.
Her research suggests that the pasta drying process can affect the gluten structure, and new methods can produce whole wheat pasta with the white-flour texture consumers prefer. The key is “low-temperature, long-time drying,” which minimizes heat exposure, which can damage the gluten network structure.
“We’re trying to remove texture as one of those barriers to consuming whole wheat pasta,” says Bock. “If we can make the texture between the two products similar, that is one less thing the consumer has to overcome in order to consume that product.”
Bock says her research has far-reaching implications. Manufacturers get a road map for creating more consumer-friendly products, and consumers can eat healthier without sacrificing pleasure.
“Everybody should get more fibre,” says Bock. “If I can help be part of that effort to improve the properties of fibre-containing products, especially whole grains, I’m pleased.”
This research is part of a bigger texture and flavour pasta project in collaboration with industry partner Mondelez International, the University of Milan and U of G. Prof. Lisa Duizer, Department of Food Science, is the principal investigator. Funding was provided by the Mitacs program in conjunction with Mondelez International Mississauga Mill.
Each month, Research Matters presents a daily series of blog posts based on a theme. This month’s theme is “Your Health.” Some of these stories have appeared previously in university publications. They are edited for brevity, clarity and style, and republished with permission here.
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Noreen Fagan | December 18, 2014Here’s a fun fact – Canadians eat more sushi than the Japanese. At least that’s what Mark Cleveland says, and he should know. Cleveland is a professor of marketing at Western University. His research focuses on the integration of cultures on a global scale and the effects of cosmopolitanism, which according to Cleveland is, “the cultural openness and the ability to successfully navigate between different cultural groups.” In other words, people who want to understand and experience other cultures do so by fully immersing themselves in that culture. “You want to live the life of cultural authenticity, by trying to understand the culture through that culture’s eyes,” he says. Cleveland’s interest in cultural openness started when he was a Master’s and then a Ph.D. student at Concordia University in Montreal. He started researching how new immigrants, primarily ethic minorities, adapted to Canadian culture by finding ways to combine their traditional identities, culture and values into mainstream society. “I have always believed that just because you learn another culture does not mean you give up the original culture. You can be bicultural or multicultural and the two can reinforce each other,” says Cleveland. “Not only are minorities affected by cultural exchange but the majority are as well.” Canada’s multiculturalism prompted Cleveland to extend his research into globalization, with a focus on how global cultures affect majority populations around the world. In the last decade Cleveland has conducted research in 15 to 20 countries exploring cultural exchange and cosmopolitanism. He says a person no longer has to travel abroad – although it helps – to become cosmopolitan. A person can experience different cultures in the comfort of their own home or neighbourhood, simply by watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing videos on You Tube or buying and consuming different products. “When we buy products, and types of brands and the reasons for buying them, they are like extensions of ourselves,” he says. So how do the sushi–eating Canadians fit into all of this? Cleveland believes if a person wants to experience cultural authenticity they will gear their shopping towards achieving that aim. In other words, a person is not going to go for the North American version of sushi (think Californian Roll), when they can get the real thing – think Unagi. He says there is probably a general global trend towards cultural openness as people become more educated and have more exposure to other cultures but he warns, there is another side. “A lot of people are really opposed to what is happening with Globalization and they see their culture as under threat,” says Cleveland adding that the threat is heightened when people feel insecure. If people are feeling secure in their surroundings (financially, emotionally and physically), the more open they are to cultural exchange and the more cosmopolitan they become. Being cosmopolitan however, does not mean buying local is a thing of the past; in fact what makes cosmopolitans stand out is that they strive for cultural authenticity. “The more cosmopolitan you are means you are not only interested in preserving differences but also interested in the environment, like getting the best locally,” says Cleveland. In terms of cosmopolitanism Cleveland thinks Canadians are more accepting of other cultures. “We are a new country, most of us go back two or three generations and have one or two grandparents born somewhere else. We have a more fluid identity,” he says, adding that as large cities go, Toronto is well integrated. “We are not just living in these areas dominated by our own ethic group, there are more opportunities to mix, and I think that allows us to become more open-minded.”