Food and health
A healthy and sustainable diet requires knowledge of raw materials, processing and products. The quality of the food depends on many different ingredients and components, each affecting each other in various ways during processing, storage, preparation and consumption.
- Healthy foods and meals
- How to preserve ingredients and components throughout the entire value chain
- Processing methods for retaining optimum food quality
- Establishing a metabolomics method platform for nutrients and plant substances, which provides us with new and detailed information about how the food we eat is affected by cultivation and processing conditions
- Minimisation of food oil degradation through various processes and packaging developments
- Developed baking methods that make it possible to retain the beneficial health properties from beta-glucanes
- Development of digestive models that measure how food is broken down in our bodies, including a special model for the elderly. These models are important in the process of developing healthy and attractive products
We need extensive knowledge to be able to produce foods that are healthy and tasty at the time of consumption. Our research cover how to preserve the ingredients and components throughout the entire value chain. We are working with developing new products, improved production methods, tailored packaging, improved storage conditions and better preparation methods.
We have processing facilities for food production, such as a vegetable pilot plant and a bakery. These are used for research purposes in order to understand the relationship between ingredients, raw materials, processes and product quality.
Good and healthy food
The health qualities of individual foods is a result of many different factors: for vegetables, the type of vegetable, climate, harvesting and choice of processing methods, like cutting, cooling, freezing, heating, drying, packing, storage and preparation all have a great impact on the product.
Our researchers have developed a metabolomics method platform for nutrients and plant substances. This platform is used to study small molecules that are a part of or are end products from physiological processes in the plant cells – and are thus part of the food we eat. These physiological processes are part of the plant’s genetic heritage, and is influenced by the plant environment, like cultivation factors, storage and processing, among other things. This platform provides us with new and detailed information about how the food we eat is affected by cultivation and processing conditions. This is important knowledge which can provide the food industry with a better basis for the development of healthy products.
The official dietary advice in Norway emphasises how we should eat whole-grain products every day, and choose products with a high fibre and whole-grain content. However, there are great differences between various fibres, and the fibres in the raw materials are affected in different ways during processing. For example, it is uncertain whether the fibres in the raw materials remain intact and retain their special health properties after baking. This holds especially true for soluble fibres, like beta-glucanes. However, our researchers have developed baking methods that make it possible to retain the beneficial health properties from beta-glucanes.
Our research into a wide range of raw materials shows how various factors affect the quality and nutritional content.
For example, we know that:
- For strawberry jam, varieties and storage conditions are important for the level of polyphenols.
- For broccoli, cultivation in cool climates is beneficial for both the taste, appearance and vitamin C content of the broccoli.
- For barley grains, genetics, climate and processing are important for the starch and fibre quality.
- For oils, rancidity can be minimized through the use of various processes and special packaging.
Compound products and meals
Nofima is conducting research on how the meal experience impacts on our health. We use human cells along with digestive models to examine how, among other things, different raw materials, processing methods and the interplay between these impact the biological activity in the food.
Our research shows that there is a clear connection between digestion, intestinal flora and lifestyle diseases, and that the composition of a meal can improve digestion and intestinal flora.
For example: Eating salmon, broccoli and barley together causes the fat to be digested more slowly than if the salmon is eaten by itself. We can use this knowledge to develop new compound food products that increase the feeling of being full.
The right food at the right time
A properly balanced diet can prevent lifestyle diseases. What is considered the “right” balance in a diet and in the composition of a meal, however, depends on a number of factors like age, lifestyle, health status and genetics.
The development of healthy, tasteful, attractive, nutritious and sustainable customised food products for particular groups, such as the elderly, is important from a public health perspective. In this context, our knowledge of how food is broken down through chewing, swallowing and in the gut is central to achieving adequate and correct nutritional levels.
Our researchers have developed a special digestive model for the elderly. This model will be important in developing customised products for this growing consumer group.
Plant-based protein-rich products are key in the shift towards a more sustainable diet with a reduced environmental footprint and better health for large populations.
We are researching plant-based protein-rich foods based on Norwegian raw materials such as legumes and oats. In addition, we look at the utilization opportunities for byproducts from grain, potato and rapeseed plants. By obtaining and combining new insights on quality properties in raw materials and innovative processing methods, we can develop healthy «model» products with a great look and taste.