Possible Future Protein Source Research Nominated for German Future Prize
Nov 05 2014
Most doctors agree that to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we must incorporate sufficient protein into our diet. Traditionally, this has come from animal products such as meat, milk, cheese or eggs. However, for several reasons, people are looking to alternative sources of food to get their required amount of protein.
With the world’s population continuing to grow at an alarming rate, the cultivation of livestock is becoming financially, economically and ethically less viable. Quite apart from the moral concerns of rearing livestock simply for our consumption, the emissions from large-scale breeding do much damage to our environment. Indeed, if we looked elsewhere for our protein (for example, in naturally rich plants like soybeans), we could use up to 80% land in agriculture.
Plant Alternatives to Animal Protein
A popular plant substitute for traditional sources of animal protein is the soybean. As well as being rich in protein, soybeans also contain isoflavonoids, which can yield both benefits and drawbacks – especially for women. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been used in the past to determine an effective assessment of the levels of isoflavonoids in soy; for more information on such research, see the article: Fast analysis of isoflavonoids in food.
However, soy might not have to shoulder this burden alone. Recent research from a team of scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Germany, led by Peter Eisner and Stephanie Mittermaier, have explored the possibility of turning lupines into protein.
Lupines, which are comparable to soy in that they must be shelled and mashed before their full potential can be realised, can be converted into a powder (not dissimilar to flour in appearance and taste) which is very rich in proteins.
Chromatography Plays its Part Again
The pair used gas chromatography to identify and extract unwanted oils and odours from the mashed lupine flakes. After that, the protein was separated from the fibre and ground into its powder form, ready for use in cooking, baking and other forms of food production.
The oil and fibre won’t go to waste either – they are also used in foodstuffs.
The first port of call for invention with the lupine protein powder is ice cream. Since ice cream currently lacks in protein, the pair have experimented with using the powder to create a delicious dessert with the idea of appealing to the growing vegan and vegetarian market in Germany. They have similar hopes of expanding the concept into other traditional dairy products, such as milk and yoghurt.
The innovation of Eisner and Mittermaier has earned them a nomination for the German Future Prize – a prestigious accolade. In a world that is increasingly looking at more sustainable and humane ways to meet our nutrition needs, the pair have made a unique and exciting discovery. Look out for lupine protein in a supermarket near you in the future.
Image Source: Lupines
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