Chula’s Research to Ensure the Good Health of Gluten-Intolerant People
A faculty member of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science has researched and developed high-protein, gluten-free pasta noodles for gluten-intolerant health-lovers.
For noodle lovers, pasta is one popular item with its chewy yet soft texture and delicious taste. However, not everyone can fully enjoy pasta due to intolerance to gluten for - a type of protein commonly found in wheat products, including pasta.
“Studies show that some consumers are intolerant to gluten and are unable to consume any foods containing the protein. Ingestion could lead to the dysfunction of multiple systems in the body. In the digestive system, for example, it could cause severe damage to the small intestine, reducing the ability to digest and absorb foods. We wanted to develop a gluten-free pasta product to serve the needs of this group of consumers, as well as those who care about their health,” explained Associate Professor Kanitha Tananuwong, a lecturer at the Department of Food Technology, the Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, head of the research team, of the background of the research and development of high–protein, gluten–free pasta from mung beans.
Mung Beans, the Solution for Gluten-Free Pasta
Although gluten-free pasta is now available in the market, Kanitha said such products are made from rice flour, which causes the pasta to lose the chewiness that makes it unique. They also have lower protein content than wheat pasta.
Nowadays, many attempts have been made to heighten the quality of rice flour pasta by adding ingredients. To increase the protein, animal-based proteins like egg white and whey proteins or plant-based proteins like soybeans have been added. Different types of hydrocolloids have also been used to improve the texture and cooking quality, but such ingredients may need to be imported or are expensive.
“Mung beans are an alternative ingredient which has the appropriate qualities. The best part is they can increase protein to pasta and help with the texture and cooking quality, not to mention that they’re easy to find here in Thailand,” said Kanitha.
Recipe Testing for Concentrated Mung Bean Protein Pasta
The research team came up with the perfect recipes for developing gluten-free pasta using scientific and statistical methods. With three main ingredients—rice flour, mung bean flour, and concentrated mung bean protein, they developed 4 basic pasta recipes with 17-24% of protein, which is higher than wheat pasta, which contains only 14% of protein.
“After mixing the pasta dough, we ran it through a pasta extruder to make spaghetti using the extrusion process under high temperatures, pressure, and mechanical shear. Then, the cut pasta is dehydrated until the moisture is no more than 12%,” Kanitha detailed the process.
The finished pasta must be inspected for significant characteristics, such as an evaluation of the cooking quality and of cooked pasta texture under a texture analyzer. More importantly, consumers’ acceptance was tested through a tasting of cooked pasta.
Gluten-Free Pasta from Chula Well Received by Consumers
Kanitha said for the appearance, taste, and texture when mixed with a sauce and overall preference, the gluten-free pasta with 20% protein, which is the best recipe developed, received similar scores to wheat pasta, but with higher protein content, making this gluten-free pasta both delicious and good for health.
Not only does this gluten-free pasta meet health demands, but it also contributes to improving the quality of life and economy of our farmers. The ingredients used in developing the pasta are domestically grown, which can increase income for Thai farmers and reduce the country’s expenses from importing ingredients.
From Research to Department Stores, a Collaboration with the Business Sector
Thai Wah (Public Company Limited), which has funded the research project, has successfully received the research on high-protein, gluten-free pasta.
“A benefit of collaborating with the private sector is our research has a chance to hit the shelves in the market. With a clear research problem, we can directly respond to the needs of the industrial sector. The funding company also contributed to a pasta extruder machine to create the pasta in our project,” said Kanitha.
She also mentioned future collaborations with the private sector to refine the production of concentrated plant-based proteins to be used in making alternative protein drinks for the good health of everyone.