A new method can now allow you to spice up meals with real nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to derive direct health benefits.
Srinivas Janaswamy's method involves creating crystalline-like fibres to embed nutritional supplements (nutraceuticals) and protect them from degradation.
The encapsulated fibres could then be chopped into small particles. Diners could reach for the resveratrol or curcumin the same way as they might for salt or pepper, he said.
"Once the nutraceutical is enveloped, it is thermally protected. Anything of interest can be used, even drug molecules, vitamins or hormones," said Janaswamy, assistant professor of food science at Purdue University, the journal Food & Function reports.
Nutraceuticals such as beta-carotene, lycopene, resveratrol and vitamins are thought to play significant roles in treating or preventing disease. Resveratrol, for example, is found in red grape products, which prevents cancer and promotes cardio health.
Janaswamy said many of the supplements added to foods today are not structurally stable. Heat, light, oxygen and other external factors could degrade them, according to a Purdue statement.
"There are many methods for adding nutraceuticals to foods, but the one thing they all have in common is instability due to non-rigid structures," said Janaswamy.
Janaswamy used iota-carrageenan, a carbohydrate, to encapsulate curcumin, the principle compound found in Indian spice turmeric, which is effective against inflammation, cancer and obesity.