When fresh produce isn’t available or has a short shelf-life in a battle zone, U.S. soldiers could still benefit from compounds found in fruits and vegetables if new research at North Carolina State University proves successful.
The N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute has received support from the U.S. Army to create ingredients from fruits and vegetables for more healthful rations, according to a news release from the institute.
Researchers at the institute in Kannapolis, N.C., are using a proprietary technology to combine protein powders and flours with health-promoting compounds from kale greens and muscadine grapes, according to the release. Anthocyanins in muscadine grapes, the pigments that give the fruit its color, counter chronic diseases and cancer. Glucosinolates in kale provide cancer-fighting properties.
The ingredients can be added to drinks, power bars and other snacks, according to the release.
The Center for Advanced Processing and Packaging Studies, a program started by the National Science Foundation, awarded $60,000 in grants to help support the project. The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, the unit that develops food, clothing and shelter for soldiers, is expected to be benefit from the institute’s efforts, according to the release.
“Soldiers stationed in certain areas of Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa or similar locations, which include both literal deserts and food deserts, are often in situations where they can’t grow or even import fresh fruits and vegetables due to climate conditions and short expiration dates,” Mary Ann Lila, institute director and project research leader, said in the release. “They’re often substituting pills and traditional health bars for fruits and vegetables, so soldiers have had to sacrifice the health-promoting bioactive compounds that can only be found in fresh produce — until now.”
Scott Neff, the institute’s postdoctoral research associate, said the research and development effort for functional food ingredients will give rations a shelf life far exceeding fresh produce, according to the release.
Food products developed by the research effort are expected to be ready for potential military applications by spring 2014.