Posts Tagged ‘yacon’

Could You, Would You On A Train?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

It’s the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and that’s a special anniversary for this book considering that Dr. Seuss only used 50 words to write the book! Believe it or not, but the book actually came into being when Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s publisher, wagered $50 that Seuss could not write a book using only fifty different words. The book became the fourth best selling english children’s book of all time. It’s also an especially fitting book for us, being based the idea of trying something new: like yaconquinoa and chia!

Here’s ABC News on Green Eggs and Ham turning 50:

Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ Turns 50

We’d also like to give a shout out to our friend Jim who pointed us to this story!

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am

Refined Sugar: Not So “Refined”

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Refined Sugar

We’re starting to notice a developing trend away from refined sugar and towards natural sweeteners. There is a growing awareness that refined sugar has virtually no nutritional value, while excess consumption may have serious negative consequences to our health. Fortunately, food manufacturers (and consumers!) can leverage this growing trend and incorporate natural sweeteners in their applications as an alternative to refined sugar. An array of natural sweeteners are now available such as agave and yacon syrups, coconut sugars and other palm sugars. The appropriate sweetener probably depends on the specific application.

For example, here is how search volume has been trending for palm sugar, a natural sweetener, over the past few years:

palm sugar search volume

Refined sugar comes almost exlcusively from sugar cane and sugar beets. These plants contain juices from which sugar crystals, syrups and molasses are made. It’s worth noting that raw sugar cane juice is actually fairly good for you and has a relatively low glycemic index. Refinement is the process of extracting the sucrose from these plant materials while removing unwanted materials from the raw sugar, such as plant fibers and soil.

Refinement consists of a repeated process of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying. More Than Sugar describes the process:

After harvesting the sugar cane, machines are used to wash, cut, and press the juice out of the cane stalks. This liquid is then heated to boiling and treated with chemical solvents to remove impurities. Then it is moved to huge tanks and heated again to evaporate the water content. This leaves a thick syrup that is placed in a centrifuge machine to form the syrup into crystals…These crystals are then transported to a sugar refinery where they are heated to boiling again, treated with bleach and other chemicals and then filtered through bone char, which is a powder made from cow or pig bones. After filtering, the syrup is then centrifuged again to produce refined white sugar. Brown sugar is created by adding molasses before putting it in the centrifuge.

Table sugar is sucrose in its completely refined stage. “Pure” sugar refers to chemical purity, not to a nutritionally beneficial quality. In fact, pure sugar is virtually void of all nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers.

It is felt that the consumption of excess sugar is linked to the improper functioning of the liver. Some simply call refined sugar dangerous. According to the Refined Sugar blog:

In addition, most people consume far more sugar than their bodies can possibly use for energy. When this happens, the liver converts the extra sugar into molecules called triglycerides and stores it as fat, or else produces cholesterol from the by-products of sugar and deposits it in veins and arteries. Sugar is thus a major factor in obesity and arteriosclerosis…It also negatively effects behavior. Refined sugar consumption has been linked to violent behavior, hypertension, and learning impediments.

If you are a food or nutraceutical manfacturer and you’d like to talk about the use of natural sweeteners in your applications, please contact us. We’d be happy to discuss any specific application you have in mind. Consumers can purchase natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, yacon syrup and agave syrup from many online retailers, and a growing number of traditional food stores.

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Photo Credit: Lauri Andler. Licensed under the GFDL.

Coconut Sugar

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Palm Tree

We’re pretty excited about natural sweeteners, and feature yacon syrup with an ultra low glycemic index. Another product we like is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made from fresh coconut sap collected from the cuttings of the flower buds on dwarf coconut trees. The sap is caramelized, then crystallized into a fine grained brown sugar. It’s 100% natural, and the perfect alternative to refined sugars in applications such as confectionery and desserts. The creamy, almost caramel-like sweetness also works well in the flavouring of curries and rich sauces for savory dishes. On a personal note, we’ve been using coconut sugar in our coffee for a while now and it’s great!

Besides its amazing texture and flavour, it also has a low glycemic index, much lower than refined sugar. Glycemic index (GI) is a tool that was developed at the University of Toronto back in the 1980’s. An ingredient’s glycemic index measures how it affects blood glucose levels in an individual. Carbohydrate foods are assigned a number between 0 and 100 based on that effect. Glycemic Index is often categorized into three levels:

  • High: a GI of more than 70
  • Moderate: a GI between 55 and 70
  • Low: a GI below 55

Due to its low glycemic index, research suggests that using coconut sugar can help stabalize insulin levels in people with type 1 & type 2 diabetes. It is also suggested that a the use of low glycemic index foods can lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol. Low glycemic index foods should also help with weight maintenance, preventing obesity and being overweight.

We encourage you to look into the research on lower glycemic index foods for yourselves. In the mean time, you might want to consider trying coconut sugar. If you’re a food manufacturer, contact us and we’d be happy to arrange for a sample. Consumers can purchase coconut sugar directly from sources such as Amazon. If you use coconut sugar, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Here’s another idea: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog today and follow us on twitter so you can stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients.

Creative Commons License photo credit: HeyDanielle

Lucuma Ice Cream

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

How about a diary free, sugar free, wheat and egg free caramel flavoured ice cream? Sound too good to be true? Ani Phyo, the raw food author shows us how to make lucuma ice cream sweetened with yacon syrup. She suggests putting the blended ingredients directly into a container which goes in the freezer. We’d recommend putting them into your ice cream maker first to get a better consistency, but either way lucuma ice cream is delicious!

6 Great Technical Resources On Yacón

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

YaconThe yacón root is pretty amazing. We’ve already touched on its use as a natural sweetener. With an unbelievably low glycemic index, it has great potential for those dieting, and those with diabetes. Besides its use as a sweetener, there are many other claims of potential health benefits. These benefits include the lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol, weight loss, reduced occurrences of constipation, and healthier bones. The scientific studies underlying these claims are excellently summarized on the Healthy Fellow blog. Today, I’d like to touch on the production, processing and application of yacón.

Native to South America, The yacón plant has been introduced to Japan and is also being grown in the Philippine Cordillera. You can educate yourself on the basics of yacón by checking out the yacón article on wikipedia. For something a little more in depth, here are six technical papers on various aspects of yacón and yacón processing courtesy of the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru:

Yacon Fact Sheet. A two page overview of the yacon plant, including a summary of health benefits and market opportunities.

Yacon by Alfredo Grau and Julio Rea. Consider this one a primer that goes beyond the fact sheet above in providing a general background on the yacon plant.

Yacon Syrup: Principles and Processing by Iván Manrique, Adelmo Párraga and Michael Hermann. The health benefits, broad application and consumer acceptance of yacon syrup suggests a large potential market. This manual outlines in detail the method for producing yacon syrup using simple technologies.

Innovations In Peeling Technology For Yacon by Graham Butler and Denys Rivera. One of the most labour intensive and costly components in the production of yacon syrup is the peeling of the yacon tubers. This paper presents cost effective peeling methods for yacon.

Effects of post-harvest treatments on the carbohydrate composition of yacon roots by S. Graefea, M. Hermannb, I. Manriqueb, S. Golombeka, and A. Buerkerta. This paper discusses the effect of the post harvest handling of yacon on fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) concentrations. FOS’s are the indigestible carbohydrates in yacon that provide the sweet taste and at the same time support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon without any significant impact on blood sugar or insulin levels.

Making Yacon Candy by Caitlin Boon. This research paper outlines the feasibility of making candy from yacon syrup.

Let’s Focus on the Food

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

presentation23In 2009, we have seen a number of product launches as well as press releases on ingredient introductions and innovations.  These initatives on product rework and or product development  influenced by the economy, food recalls and changing health patterns resulted in these market trend reports on what consumers were looking for or want in their food product.    While there were many variations and versions of these terms (depending on which research firm has published the report), they all have recurring themes.

In retrospect, Ingredient Hotline has summarized these food trend findings into the 5 F’s:

  • Flavour
  • Frugality
  • Fitness & Function
  • Fun
  • Fair

These 5 F’s were the top 5 attributes that consumers searched for or were willing to pay for in the food products that they purchase and consume for 2009.

When it comes to food, flavour has always be a top priority of most consumers.   It may well be the healthiest ingredient on the planet, but it will be a challenge to market it if the product is not palatable.  People will not eat it, let alone pay for it.   This leads us to the next F word, frugality. Last year, we have seen many great food products launched in the market from the branded to their private label counterparts.  It was not surprising however, that private label sales performed very well since customers were looking for bargains and more value for money.  Imagine a product that tasted great, fit your budget and offered benefits to one’s health and well being  – what a bonus!  Fitness meant reduced sugars, sodium, trans-fats etc. & function referred to specific benefits to the body in terms of improving digestive health, immunity and others.    Improvements or creativity in packaging that sparked some interest or even convenience would fall under fun.  Novel flavours, colours and formats were also classified as a way to forget the harsh realties and savour some simple pleasures.    Finally, more consumers have expressed concerns and genuine interest in how their foods were grown or processed.   Is it locavore, raw food, fair trade, sustainable, is it fair?

Stay tuned for what’s in store in 2010!

In the meantime, we at Ingredient Hotline, Inc. would like to  thank you – our readers, suppliers and customers for giving us your time, attention and lots of encouraging words and well wishes.    The responses to the products have been very positive and we certainly look forward to a promising new year.    As a company who strives to provide unique, natural ingredients – we do not have any gimmicks.  Our focus has always been and will always be on food!

We wish you a new year of good health, good food, peace and prosperity!

How Sweet It Is

Monday, August 10th, 2009

The World Health Organization reports that there are over a billion overweight adults worldwide.  Factors such as reduced physical activity, poor selection of foods (those that are high in sugar and fats); bot have contributed to this condition.

The risks to health from obesity range from diabetes, hypertension and certain forms of cancer.  It is also detrimental emotionally and psychologically.

Despite this alarming fact, consumers are still drawn to foods that provide that pleasant sweet taste.   To help assuage the situation, food manufacturers have tried and tested various solutions in their quest to “responsibly” satisfy the sweet tooth.

There came the artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-potassium, polydextrose, sucralose, thaumatin, alitame and sugar alcohols (polyols) like sorbitol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol and xylitol.   These generally have a GI of zero.

Thaumatin, an intensely sweet tasting protein is derived from the membranours sac of the katemfe fruit in West Africa. It has traditionally been used as a source of flavour. In the 1970s, Tate & Lyle began extracting thaumatin from the fruit and has coined the brandname TALIN. TALIN stands for “Tate And Lyle INgredients”. It is commercialized by the Overseal company.

The use of these chemically synthesized sweeteners have resulted to some adverse effects in humans.  A number of individuals may be allergic or highly sensitive to the use these high-intensity sugar substitutes.  There is also the issue on carcinogens with regards to saccharin. In addition to a number of health controversies, stability may oftentimes be limited.  Aspartame for example in beverage applications would usually last only for about 6 months.    The lingering sweet taste may also be a deterring factor.  Often, the perceived intense sweetness of these products is longer than desired; leaving an unpleasant sensation in the taste buds.   However, an advantage of using these types of sweeteners in addition to less or no calories is their cost.   The level of usage is much lower when using these sweeteners compared to sugar.

There are other sweetness enhancing products available, which are natural.  These sugar alternatives have been in use for many centuries.  The common process to produce these types of sugar involves evaporating the water content thus concentrating the natural sugars that are inherently present.

Agave is made from the agave plant, this is also the major component in making tequila.  The controversy with Agave is if it can still be classified as “raw food” and if it is actually a “healthy” sweetener.  A thorough discussion can be found from Debra Lynn Dadd’s website.

Panela – a brownish block of sugar made from sugarcane but not refined or bleached.  Very popular in parts of Asia and in South America.  It has many variations to its name.

Maple syrup – Made from the sap of Maple trees.  It is also very high in fructose and very viscous.

Yacón Syrup is made from 100% Yacón root, a close relative of the Jerusalem artichoke.  The process to make yacon syrup involves juicing the yacon tubers and then concentrating the juice to about 50-60 Bx.  It is similar to Maple Syrup in colour, but 40% less calories than Maple Syrup and contains Soluble Fibre.  It is also considered to be Prebiotic.

Palm sugar is sometimes called coconut sugar.  However, there is a clear distinction between the two, based on where the sap was sourced.  By name, Palm sugar was originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm or the date palm. Now it is also made from the sap of the sago and coconut palms and labeled as “coconut sugar.”   It is not to be confused with sugar derived from the coconut fruit but rather from a palm tree variety called coconut palm.  The sugar is commonly used in Southeast Asian desserts.

Coconut Sugar or cocosugar is produced from the evaporation of coconut sap or sweet toddy through boiling in an open container, and then allowed to cool and solidify. It was tested to contain a low Glycemic index (GI) of 35 and a higher amount of nutrients compared to that of table sugar’s which is at 64-68.

Stevia has recently become very popular in North America.  In Asia particularly Japan, its use has been traced 30 years ago.   It is actually a member of the Chrysanthemum family.  It is remarkable since it is 300 times sweeter than sugar but does not provide any calories or carbohydrates therefore it does not cause blood sugar to rise.  The downside of stevia is that its perceived sweetness is much prolonged and there is also some bitterness detected.

The Glycemic Index (GI) of a particular food is a number that indicates how fast sugar is released into the blood after consumption or how fast a food is likely to raise your blood sugar.  The table below shows the various GI levels of these natural sweeteners, Gi levels at 55 and below are considered Low GI foods, High GI foods are 70 and above.

Natural Sweetener                           Average Glycemic Index (GI)
Yacon Syrup   1-3
Palm sugar   35
Coconut sugar from coconut fruit   35
Agave  11
Maple syrup   54-55
Glucose consumed with
15-20 grams of fiber  57-85
Panela  63
White refined sugar  68
Pure glucose    100