Food: Singapore scientists use seaweed to make beverages
A team of food scientists from NUS Science’s Food Science and Technology (FST) Programme has devised a novel technique using eucheuma, a species of seaweed, which can be used to produce a range of beverages and food products. The team also came up with precise heat processing technology used to preserve the nutrients while extending shelf life, thus eliminating the need for preservatives.
Eucheuma, which contains properties of both seafood and vegetables, is known to be low in calories and high in dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and potassium.
Studies have shown that regular consumption may have health benefits including lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, prevention of cardiovascular diseases and colon cancer, as well as promoting anti-ageing, brain development and tissue repair.
The researchers combined traditional oriental dietary practices with modern food and nutrition knowledge to devise the right mix of food ingredients and make the drink taste home-brewed. This involved evaluating the physiochemical properties of potential ingredients and utilising natural sugars from things such as honey, red dates, longan fruit and goji berries in place of artificial sweeteners. These natural foods also interacted with other components in the beverages in an innovative method used by the food scientists to “stabilise” the product — that is, to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed.
The eucheuma-based bottled drinks took over a year to develop. They currently come in six different flavours comprising other natural ingredients such as bird’s nest, roselle and water chestnut. The drinks contain no chemical additives, added sugar and preservatives.
“This project enables our team to apply our knowledge in eucheuma and strong expertise in food processing to create novel products that benefit consumers,” said principal investigator and assistant professor Yang Hongshun from the FST Programme. He added that students also benefitted from being able to apply their food science knowledge while gaining insights into industry practices and the entire value-chain of food and beverage development.
The team plans to conduct further studies on the properties of eucheuma, and explore new eucheuma-based beverages and bakery products over the next four years, in collaboration with local food manufacturer Y G C Group (S) Pte Ltd.