Americans don’t get enough fiber in their fast food diets, resulting in a number of health problems. A graduate student at the University of Missouri has tested a dinnertime staple that has been kicked up a nutritional notch.
Ayca Gedikoglu, a PhD candidate in food science at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, tested various amounts of citrus fiber in ground beef meatballs. Her intention is to see if the fiber, with its accompanying health benefits, adversely changes the texture and cooking characteristics of the meatballs.
In one test, Gedikoglu divided lean round into three sets of meatballs. Into one set she added citrus powder equaling one percent of the meat’s weight. The other sets got five and 10 percent citrus. Everything then headed for the oven.
Dietary fiber — found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Foods high in fiber generally require more chewing, which speeds the time it takes for the body to feel that it is no longer hungry. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so a person will stay full for a greater length of time. And high-fiber diets tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food, Gedikoglu said.
The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, says men 50 years and older should get 38 grams of fiber a day – women should consume 25 grams. The Centers for Disease Control states that most Americans consume only 15 grams of fiber per day.
So, how did the orange-laced meatballs come out? Fiber increased the cooking yield of the meatballs – meaning orange-beef meatballs were heftier than their equivalent beef-alone meatballs, Gedikoglu pointed out. The texture of the meatballs, particularly at the lower percentages of citrus fiber, remained acceptable. Citrus fiber did add a little red and yellow coloring to the meatballs, but this was also acceptable, particularly at the 1 and 5 percent citrus levels.
So are they ready for dinner? That’s the next step in the research.
Beginning this autumn, Gedikoglu will put her meatballs to a series of taste tests with Mizzou students, faculty and staff. She will also evaluate citrus powder’s potential antioxidant benefits. “Citrus fruits, particularly their peels, are rich with flavonoids,” she said. “I am going to evaluate the presence of these antioxidants, their antioxidant power and also their potential to reduce lipid oxidation in ground beef meatballs.”