Study pioneers new frontiers in plant-based food science

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Scientists investigate the molecular function and effects of vegetable proteins

On a molecular scale, plant-based meat appears completely different from the food it tries to mimic, which is noticeable in various ways.

In Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, scientists from Germany investigate the molecular function and effects of vegetable proteins of different origins to identify sensory weak points in plant-based meat substitutes.

The researchers said muscle proteins emulsify fats and oils in a very different way than plant proteins do while lending to a different biting behavior in the mouth.

“The ’crunch’ or ’crack’ of meat sausages is inevitably different than that of vegan sausages, simply because the molecular properties of the proteins are markedly different,” said the researchers.

In addition to tensile experiments, the research team employed rheology and tribology in molecular models, bringing greater insight than pure sensory analyses to examine meat sausages and their vegetarian surrogates.

Building on the authors’ previous research of soft matter theory and theoretical polymer physics, the study represents an entirely new approach to experimental food science.

“We’re working directly at the interface between basic science and technological application. With these methods, it is possible to make predictions in how the physical properties of an alternative sausage can be improved and make targeted developments”, researchers added.

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