Last updated August 1, 2018 at 10:15 am
Banana plants could be the secret to tastier, less melty ice creams
Colombian scientists think they may have cracked the problem of melting ice cream using an unlikely source – fibre from banana plants.
We’re big fans of ice cream at Australia’s Science Channel, but the one thing we hate is how quickly it melts on a hot Australian summer day. Running down our hands, or making a pool in the bottom of the bowl – cold soup isn’t quite as enjoyable.
But scientists say they are closing in on a cool solution to this sticky problem.
They’ve added tiny cellulose fibres extracted from banana plant waste to ice cream, and found it slows melting, increases shelf life and could potentially replace fats used to make the tasty treat.
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Cellulose nanofibers for stability
“Our findings suggest that cellulose nanofibres extracted from banana waste could help improve ice cream in several ways,” Robin Zuluaga Gallego from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Colombia, said.
“In particular, the fibres could lead to the development of a thicker and more palatable dessert, which would take longer to melt. As a result, this would allow for a more relaxing and enjoyable experience with the food, especially in warm weather.”
The team extracted cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), which are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, from ground-up banana stems, called rachis. They then mixed the CNFs into ice cream at varying concentrations, ranging from zero up to three-tenths of a gram per 100 grams of the dessert.
Even at these miniscule concentrations, they found that ice creams mixed with CNFs tended to melt much more slowly than traditional ice creams.
The CNFs could increase shelf life of ice cream, or at least decrease its sensitivity to temperature changes during transport.
Finally, they also found the CNFs increased the viscosity of low-fat ice cream, making it creamier and improving the texture of the product, making it seem more like normal “full-fat” ice cream.
Stabilising fat could make ice cream healthier
However the researchers weren’t just watching and tasting the ice cream to determine these changes. They also utilised a rheometer, which measures how much force is needed to move a fluid, and a texturometer, which measures the hardness of ice cream.
The analysis found that CNFs helped stabilize the fat structure in the ice creams. This, they suggest, means that in the future, CNFs could potentially replace some of the fats — and perhaps reduce calories.
The Colombian team isn’t the first to tackle the problems of ice cream. Previously, other researchers have tried using wood pulp extracts to reducing melting, while a team in Japan developed a melt-resistant ice cream using polyphenol compounds found in strawberries.
However, this approach of using waste from banana plantations is an exciting step forward for those of us with a sweet tooth.
The research has been presented at the American Chemical Society 255th National Meeting