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An Indian-origin scientist makes the most attractive plant-based meat

An innovative method for enhancing the desirability of alternative meat products has been invented by a team under the direction of an Indian-born researcher with a base in the UK. The replacements have advanced over former textures owing to their imaginative thinking, transforming from lackluster and parched to delicious and rich, replicating the tasting experience of fats. They feel exceptionally dry and astringent when eaten, which is one of the most significant obstacles to the adoption of substitutes for meat that are made from plants.

Through the application of a procedure known as microgeletion, the investigators generated plant protein microgels. Plant proteins undergo heating in water upon being added to it and commence the process as dry, granular proteins.

According to them, this changes the shape of the protein molecules that accumulate together to form a gel or network linking them to the proteins in plants and holding water there. Following the gel’s homogenization, the structure of proteins has been broken up into a microgel made up of minuscule particles that are imperceptible to the unaided eye.

When put under pressure, like they would when being eaten, the microgels exude water, creating a lubricity similar to that of single cream. “What we have done is turn the dry protein found in plants into a moistened one, using the plant protein to form a spider’s web that holds the water around the plant protein,” explained Professor Anwesha Sarkar from the University of California, Berkeley.  

This brings about much-needed moisture absorption. and delicious mouthfeel, in accordance with a statement from Sarkar.  A method of production that is widely available and currently employed in the food sector can be utilized for manufacturing plant-based protein microgels without the need for any additional chemicals or agents. Water is an important component. The dryness of plant proteins has been a “key bottleneck for commercial acceptability,” according to the researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

With this breakthrough, the team intends to revive consumer interest in plant-based proteins and encourage people to consume less protein from animal sources, which is an essential step if global climate change targets are to be realized. Animal manufacturing of goods, encompassing the raising and manufacturing of animals, accounts for more than half of the eighteen trillion kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents produced annually by the food industry.

The protein microgels “offer an original framework to design the next generation of healthy, palatable, and sustainable foods,” according to the researchers. The team was sure that their strategy would work since they had mathematically calculated the behavior of plant protein microgels.  

The evidence, however, came from visual representations created in the atomic force microscopy suite, which entails a tiny probe scanning a molecule’s surface to obtain a representation of its shape. According to the researchers, the information these photos presented served as proof of concept. The visualizations showed that the protein microgels were nearly spherical and that they were not accumulating or aggregating together. Plant protein microgels that were individually spaced were visible, as stated by Sarkar.

Mel Holmes, an associate professor at Leeds and one of the paper’s authors, said that the study “reveals the creative thinking and comprehensiveness of science involved in modern food technology.  The microgels’ lubricity, which is approximate to that of a single cream, suggests that they could be modified for use in various food processing applications, such as replacing fat that has been removed from a food product. It’s a really amazing discovery.

We are the first to disclose that without the addition of a drop of fat, the lubricity of the microgels is strikingly similar to that of a 20% fat emulsion, according to main researcher Ben Kew, a doctoral student at Leeds.

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