Eating for Beauty and Health

Health problems associated with an aging population include heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, diabetes and obesity. Many believe that these diseases are a function of the Western diet, which features too many foods high in fat, empty calories and salt, all of which can further aggravate health problems.

There is a push to get back to basics; that is, to consume more products that are less processed and richer in nutrients. These are called “beauty foods” by some and are characterized by being natural, flavorful without being salted, colorful and high in fiber. Beauty foods improve skin, hair and overall health from the inside out. They include products such as aloe vera, citrus, carrots, wheat germ, flaxseed, tomatoes, cranberries and garlic. These products are high in natural antioxidants and contain phytochemicals, fiber and healthy oils.

Antioxidants protect cells from molecular damage caused by free radicals. Some believe that certain cancers and cardiovascular disease are caused in part by the presence of free radicals. Antioxidants scavenge the free radicals, rendering them harmless. There are a wide range of phytochemicals divided into 10 groups. These groups include polyphenols, carotenoids, monoterpenes (which are the compounds that impart citrus flavor), isothiocyanates, allyl sulfates, indoles, saponins, protease inhibitors and capsaicins. Flavonoids are the plant pigments that impart flavor and color; plus, they are now known to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables and in other plants not so well-known. Sources of non-traditional flavonoids may be seen in the chart “Non-traditional Flavonoid Sources.”

Healthy oils may seem like an oxymoron, but there are fats and oils that contain components that are good for humans. Products that are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as fish oils and flaxseed oil, have been shown to be beneficial in a number of different ways, including cholesterol reduction and protection against certain cancers. Fiber is essential for good digestion. It helps control weight, can reduce the potential of certain cancers and reduce heart disease.

The adoption of this kind of diet will help drive a new discipline known as nutrigenomics. This is the systematic study of the biology of nutrition. The theory is that people can eliminate disease by changing their biochemistry, which is in part a function of diet. Consuming more healthy foods and those with specific characteristics will bring about these changes, according to this theory. This would be, in essence, “personalized” or “individualized nutrition,” in that it would be based on each individual’s genetic makeup. The bottom line is that we are what we eat, and changing eating habits to ensure that one eats a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy sources of oil can do nothing but be helpful.


“Foods for Beauty and Wellness: Nourishing the Body from Within,” Jennifer Crouch Elgrim, manager—sensory and consumer research, David Michael & Co. Inc.,, —Summary by Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor

Adding Grapeseed Extract to Bakery Products

In winemaking, the skin and seeds of grapes have traditionally been waste products. However, the grape’s seed coat is rich in antioxidants, and grapeseed oil is finding its way into more and more upscale kitchens. Grapeseed extract has high antioxidant levels. The concentration process results in an extract that has 50g to 90g of antioxidant per 100g, compared to 3g to 12g in 100g of the seed itself. The concentration of simple sugars in the grapeseed extract is between 10% and 20%, vs. 10% to 12% in the grapeseed (see chart “Components of Grapeseeds and Grapeseed Extract”).

The antioxidants found in grapeseed extract are primarily polyphenols. This is the same class of chemicals found in wine. One of the primary compounds found in the extract is oligomeric proanthocyanin. Thanks to this compound and the other polyphenols found in the extract, grapeseed extract has almost five times the antioxidant activity as vitamin C. Other research has shown that grapeseed extract may inhibit skin damage and cancers induced by ultraviolet radiation. It has also been shown to inhibit chemically induced skin cancers and damage to capillaries. Grapeseed extract has shown an ability to inhibit the synthesis and release of substances that promote inflammation and to enhance wound healing. Plus, it is active in minimizing the development of cardiovascular disease. More importantly, animal studies have shown that grapeseed extract is safe for use in foods and beverages.

Human feeding studies have also demonstrated very distinct benefits. Incorporating grapeseed extract into the diet will spare vitamin E and reduce damage to cellular material, enhance visual performance, reduce energy intake, enhance weight management and reduce oxidative damage and depletion of vitamin E that occurs during exercise. Research on products in which grapeseed extract has been incorporated, such as bread, extruded muesli bars and breakfast cereals, has shown that the antioxidants in the extract are quite stable. There is little degradation over time. For example, in muesli bars, the levels of antioxidants drop slightly during the first month after extrusion but remain at the same levels for the next five months. 

Consumers are very aware that consumption of natural antioxidants in the diet can enhance overall health. Grapeseed extract is a product that can be used as an ingredient in different products to provide a source of these compounds.

“Fortifying with Grapeseed Extract,” Glenn Vile, Roxlor International,,,—Summary by Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor

Allergen-free Lycopene and Beta-carotene

Lycopene and beta-carotene are unique molecules. Both contain forty (40) hydrocarbons, impart color and act as antioxidants as a result of their extensive system of conjugated double bonds.

Lycopene is a carotenoid with red color found in plants such as tomatoes and watermelon. It is a powerful antioxidant but has no provitamin A activity. Lycopene ingestion has been associated with lower rates of certain cancers and enhanced cardiovascular health. It is proven to be absorbed in clinical studies and scavenges reactive oxygen species, thus minimizing potential damage to the body (see chart “Lycopene Helps Prevent Chronic Diseases”). 

Beta-carotene is a similar molecule to lycopene, except that is has provitamin A activity. It is also associated with enhanced immune function and reduced oxidative stress. Like lycopene, it can be synthesized, and the synthetic product has similar properties and functions to carotene or lycopene found in our food. It is nature-identical. Beta-carotene has the highest provitamin A activity of all of the carotenoids, and it only takes 3mg to provide 100% DV (5,000IU) of vitamin A per serving.

Since neither lycopene nor beta-carotene is soluble in water, and both are sensitive to oxygen, it is necessary for manufacturers to market these products in a form that is stable and can be used in different foods. Encapsulation of the two compounds in modified starch matrices allows their use in different products and yields a finished product that is non-allergenic and vegetarian. A protein-based encapsulated product cannot make this claim.

The use of encapsulated lycopene or beta-carotene in beverages calls for the use of special processing techniques, the possible use of a stabilizer system and the addition of ascorbic acid as an antioxidant. The primary use of beta-carotene is to impart colors to products in a similar fashion; lycopene also will color the food or beverage to which it is added. One suggested process for addition of carotenoids to beverages would be as follows: 1) slowly mix the powder (encapsulated carotenoids) to water while mixing; 2) allow product to equilibrate for approximately 10 minutes; 3) add a stabilizer system such as gum acacia or pectin; and 4) add ascorbic acid. Carotenoids have excellent stability in products such as soft drinks and still beverages when following recommended processes. Lycopene is GRAS as a nutrient.

There are certain issues of which potential users must be aware. For use in beverages, stock solutions are often required, and there are colloidal stability concerns. Also, because of their sensitivity to oxygen, ascorbic acid is needed as an antioxidant.  Finally, the use of carotenoid compounds can create turbidity in a beverage, which can be positive or negative, depending on the nature of the beverage; it is common to use combinations of products to get the desired color and turbidity.

“New Lycopene and Beta-carotene Products for Allergen-free Functional Beverages and Foods,” John L. Foley, technical services manager, BASF,,, —Summary by Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor

Bacteria Help Ensure Food Safety

The number one priority for all food processors is food safety. To ensure the safety of processed foods, manufacturers have worked to eliminate or reduce microorganisms in ingredients, the processing environment and in finished products. Beneficial bacteria also can be used as a means to inhibit or eliminate pathogens. The utilization of bacteria as a means to control pathogens is called bioprotection.

One of the best examples of how beneficial bacteria work is in fermented foods. Dairy products (such as cheese, yogurt or sour cream), fermented sausages and vegetable products (such as olives or pickles) have a very good health record. Bioprotection controls pathogens and, at the same time, enhances food quality by delaying the growth of spoilage bacteria. The incorporation of microorganisms or their by-products adds an additional hurdle to foods, which can further protect the product from pathogens and/or spoilage.

Bioprotective cultures work by competing with and inhibiting indigenous microflora. They compete for nutrients, remove oxygen (thereby lowering the redox potential of the food) and grow well under normal conditions of distribution and storage. These cultures also can produce substances that inhibit pathogen growth, such as organic acids and bacteriocins. Since the main bioprotective organisms are lactic acid bacteria, the main acid produced is lactic acid.

Perhaps the most well-known application of bioprotection is in the meat industry. Lactobacilli and Pediococci are used to ensure proper fermentation and safe production of fermented products. The latter also may be used as an adjunct culture for controlling Listeria sp. in existing products. These organisms may also be used in non-fermented products, such as bacon, to inhibit spoilage organisms. Research using meat emulsions inoculated with Listeria monocytogenes has shown that the addition of bioprotective cultures to fermented sausages will not only significantly reduce numbers of Listeria in the product (2–3 log reduction), but also will prevent their growth, primarily through the production of bacteriocins. The addition of Lactobacilli and Leuconostoc to fresh meats will suppress the growth of Listeria monocytogenes through competitive exclusion and the production of organic acids inhibitory to growth. In cooked meats, inhibition is achieved through competitive exclusion and the presence of bacteriocins. These organisms may also be used to slow the growth of spoilage bacteria, thus improving shelflife.

Bioprotective cultures offer many advantages, but there are also some drawbacks. They require an extra processing step, which can increase costs. They are also application-specific, and the regulatory status is not clearly defined. What may be the biggest obstacle is that the addition of bioprotective cultures will raise the total microbial counts, which can create issues with customer specifications. However, they are a natural means of ensuring human health.

“Increasing Food Safety Through the Use of Beneficial Bacteria,” Jim Lamkey, senior technical services

specialist-meat and poultry, Chr. Hansen, usjil@chr-hansen-com, —Summary by Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor