Flavonoids Can Taste Good, Too

Healthy plant compounds can improve flavor of some food products

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TUESDAY, Sept. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- There may be no need to feel bitter about having flavonoids in your food.

A Penn State study found that the presence of heart-healthy flavonoids, which occur naturally in plant foods, does not automatically increase bitterness. In fact, the study found that adding them during food processing can actually promote good flavor in some food products.

Research has shown that flavonoids are associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. But flavonoids are often removed during food processing because they can cause bitterness.

"Our research has shown that in food and beverage products that are heated for safety or preservation, flavonoids can limit the generation of off-flavors, such as the scalded or cooked taste of ultrapasteurized milk," study director Dr. Devin Peterson, an assistant professor of food sciences, says in a news release.

"We've also found that it may be possible to enhance some good flavor pathways while limiting others, including less desirable smells, by the addition of flavonoids," Peterson says.

The study was presented Sept. 9 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York City.

The Penn State researchers added different levels of epicatechin -- a flavonoid found in vegetables, fresh fruit, tea and chocolate -- to whole milk. The milk was then ultrapasteurized.

Expert tasters sampled the milk and found all the milk samples containing the different flavonoid levels were much lower in cooked flavor. In another experiment, the tasters did not detect increased bitterness in granola bars enriched with epicatechin.

"Adding flavonoids to food products at efficacious levels does not have to result in increased bitterness and consumer rejection. By understanding how health-promoting flavonoids alter flavor generation, we can learn how to produce healthier foods that taste good, too," Peterson says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about flavonoids.

SOURCE: Penn State University, news release, Sept. 9, 2003

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