Wednesday, June 5, 2013 — “Fresh produce is a critical component in everyday diets and health, especially for soldiers who are exposed to harsh conditions and increasingly demanding mental and physical challenges,” said Lila.
“Natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables can help increase physical and cognitive capacity, improve immune function and inhibit chronic disease development in soldiers.”
A primary barrier to the seemingly straightforward solution of having soldiers eat more fruits and vegetables has been storage and transportation. Most fruits and vegetables have a short shelf life, making it difficult to ship produce to certain parts of the world in a timely or cost-efficient manner.
“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,” explained Lila.
“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.”
Fruit and vegetable powders: Cost-efficient, shelf stable and flavorful
It starts with fresh produce. Using a proprietary technology developed by N.C. State and Rutgers universities, Lila’s team of PHHI researchers extract healthy compounds from muscadine grapes, like anthocyanins, the pigments that give produce its blue, purple or red color and combat chronic diseases and cancer, as well as compounds from kale, like glucosinolates that provide cancer-fighting properties.
The kale and muscadine extracts go through a series of steps to remove unneeded sugars, fats and water, which reduces the final product weight and makes it easier to concentrate the health-promoting compounds. The resulting juice mixtures are combined with protein powders or flours – soy-based for the muscadine mix and hemp for the kale – to create healthy, shelf stable functional food ingredients.