Now, crunchy and spicy soy snacks to boost nutrition in Indian kids

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - Soy, although an inexpensive and complete vegetable protein, doesn’t find too many takers because of its bland taste, but University of Illinois scientists have joined forces with an Indian foundation that can get the high-protein soy snack they’ve developed into the hands of 1.2 million hungry kids who need it.

Despite being one of the world’s top five soy producers, it exports most of the crop. That’s unfortunate because 24 percent of India’s population is undernourished, and protein deficiency is an even greater concern.

Soo-Yeun Lee and her U of I colleagues experimented with nine soy snack recipes which were then put up for consumer taste tests.

Snacks that were crunchy, salty and/or spicy, and contained umami, cumin, and curry flavours received high marks from participants. Panelists turned thumbs down on snacks with rougher, porous textures and wheat flavour and aroma.

The final formulation included chickpea flour, a staple in Indian cuisine that provides a preferred texture and flavour, and such spices as cumin and red chilli pepper.

The U of I scientists began working with Bangalore’s Akshaya Patra Foundation, a non-governmental organization that runs one of the largest school meal programs in the world.

“A free school lunch is a powerful incentive for Indian children to attend school. When families are living in poverty, parents often keep their kids at home because they’re more valuable there doing chores or selling goods on the streets,” Lee said.

The foundation will now make the snacks for their school lunch program and, as further testimony of the recipe’s likability, sell them in the temple gift shop, she said.

“I’d have to say that our attempts to make a soy snack that appealed to Indian tastes were pretty successful. Sensory scientists are important for their ability to make nutritious foods bridge cultural divides,” she said. (ANI)

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