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The potential of microalgae and their biopolymers as structuring ingredients in food: A review
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Microalgae are considered promising functional food ingredients due to their balanced composition, containing multiple nutritional and health-beneficial components. However, their functionality in food products is not limited to health aspects, since microalgae can also play a structuring role in food, for instance as a texturizing ingredient. Photoautotrophic microalgae are actually rich in structural biopolymers such as proteins, storage polysaccharides, and cell wall related polysaccharides, and their presence might possibly alter the rheological properties of the enriched food product. A first approach to benefit from these structural biopolymers consists of isolating the cell wall related polysaccharides for use as food hydrocolloids. The potential of extracted cell wall polysaccharides as food hydrocolloids has only been shown for a few microalgae species, mainly due to an enormous diversity in molecular structure and composition. Nevertheless, with intrinsic viscosities comparable or higher than those of commercial thickening agents, extracellular polysaccharides of red microalgae and cyanobacteria could be a promising source of novel food hydrocolloids. A more sustainable approach would be to incorporate the whole microalgal biomass into food products, to combine health benefits with potential structuring benefits, i.e. providing desired rheological properties of the enriched food product. If microalgal biomass would act as a thickening agent, this would actually reduce the need for additional texturizing ingredients. Even though only limitedly studied so far, food processing operations have been proven successful in establishing desired microstructural and rheological properties. In fact, the use of cell disruption techniques allows the release of intracellular compounds, which become available to create strong particle aggregates resulting in an improved viscosity and network structure. Food processing operations might not only be favorable in terms of rheological properties, but also for enhancing the bioaccessibility of several bioactive compounds. However, this research area is only very scarcely explored, and there is a demand for more standardized research studies to draw conclusions on the effect of processing on the nutritional quality of food products enriched with microalgae. Even though considered as promising food ingredients, some major scientific challenges have been pointed out throughout this review paper for the successful design of microalgal based food products.
Journal: Biotechnology Advances
Number of pages: 22