The health benefits, nutritional value and tasty aroma of mushrooms are being teamed up with pasta in a bid to make the most of both these popular foods.
Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences PhD student Xikun Lu is investigating the nutritional effects of adding button, shiitake, black ear and porcini mushroom powder to pasta, bread and a hot extruded product.
Xikun recently completed her first study, which involved partially substituting durum wheat semolina in pasta with mushroom powder. The cooking properties and textural characteristics of the pasta produced were investigated to determine the possibility of producing high-quality functional pasta-based foods.
Results varied from the three mushrooms species, with all three reducing glycaemic response and increasing antioxidant capacity, but the rich aroma of porcini mushrooms may be the deciding factor in choosing which mushroom to use if a recipe for commercialisation is developed in future.
Mushrooms are popular due to their taste, texture, medicinal properties and use as tonics, particularly in countries like China where they are already added to a wide variety of high end foods. White button mushrooms are the most well-known and consumed in New Zealand, and are a good source of high-quality proteins, dietary fibre, acidic polysaccharides and antioxidants.
While there is growing availability and acceptance of other species of mushroom, many people remain unsure of how to prepare mushrooms. Xikun’s study is looking for ways to increase the range and volume of mushrooms consumed through existing, commonly eaten cereal foods. She says the soft nature of pasta makes it a good option for incorporating other foods as it is chewed for a relatively short period of time and usually combined with a sauce, so any bitter flavours go largely unnoticed.
“Incorporating mushroom powder into pasta can take full advantage of mushroom bioactive components, which are involved in immune regulation and have anti-tumour, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycaemic and hypocholesterolaemic effects, and could provide a good source of nutrients resulting in larger economic benefits than traditional pasta.”
Xikun is now performing the same tests on a hot extruded product and bread, and still has work to do on recipe formulation, processing methods and sensory evaluation, so commercial application of the results is some way off, but with the increasing popularity of mushrooms will no doubt be put to good use.
Food Science Professor Charles Brennan who is supervising Xikun’s PhD says food innovation is essential for the economy of New Zealand. “This pioneering research illustrates that with the correct combination of food biochemistry, together with knowledge about food processing, it is possible to derive health benefits for the discerning consumer whether they are from New Zealand, China or anywhere in the world. Lincoln University is the only university in New Zealand with a dedicated MSc in Food Innovation as well as a large group of applied PhD students.”