The vegetable oil in our kitchens may soon be replaced with a healthier blend. The same solution could also turn into a healthier alternative for solid fats in dairy products, in the form of powdered vegetable oil consumables. All of that thanks to an award-winning innovation by IIT-Kharagpur researchers, that promises healthy vegetable oil rich in antioxidants and low on saturated fat.
Researchers at IIT-Kharagpur claim their patented blend of oils, which is mixed with market-available vegetable oil, makes it low on cholesterol, trans and saturated fats.
“The proportion of saturated fats varies in the content. However, our oil is endowed with natural antioxidants along with the right proportion of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. They are commonly known as (MUFA & PUFA),” says Hari Mishra, Department of Agricultural and Food Engineering.
Hari, who heads the project, said the oils are carefully chosen and blended in a particular proportion, combined with patented technology, making it a good replacement for existing vegetable oils. The team bagged the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (SITARE-GYTI) Award 2020 for this new oil.
“The oils, endowed with antioxidants blend and synergise with each other. During the process the synthetic antioxidants are replaced with natural antioxidants, and maintain a stable proportion of fatty acids,” Hari said. The professor said that the same oil, when emulsified and powdered, could replace the dairy fat.
Monalisha Pattnaik, a researcher at IIT-Kharagpur, added that synthetic antioxidants are often added externally to market vegetable oils to increase the shelf life of the oil. “What we achieved is to blend the antioxidants which are already endowed in these oils. The blend of two or more oils increases shelf life and triggers synergistic effects,” she added.
Monalisha added the majority of the population in the country cannot afford olive oil or other healthy alternatives. “This blend is low-cost, filled with proper nutrients, and fills the lacunae in existing vegetable oils,” she said.
The researcher added that there is also a shortage of dairy fats which can not only be compensated by this product, but this product is healthier as well.
“The solid oil in powdered form could potentially replace dairy fat in bakery and ice creams for a healthier heart,” Monalisha said.
“The oil powder can replace dairy fat as well as unhealthy margarine or low-quality palm oil often used by businesses. The oil powder can also help reduce adulteration in food items caused by the shortage of solid fats,” Hari adds.
Hari said the team is now scaling up the laboratory model to commercialise it.
Describing the difficulties faced during the project, “There were many steps where the oil to be encapsulated needed not to ooze out. It had to be ensured that the powder form of the oil remained in that state for as long as needed.” Monalisha said.
Monalisha claimed that great care had to be taken while drying the emulsion. As such oil powder combinations can easily turn into a rubbery substance or crumble into lumps, which would then be unacceptable to the market. “The free flow of the powder had to remain intact with a guaranteed shelf life of the product,” she added.
“Many companies are approaching for potential collaboration, and the viability is getting explored at the moment. The cost of the vegetable oil will be almost the same as the ones available in the market with probably 10 per cent added costs,” the professor said.
“Some processes in conventional oil processes will get eliminated and replaced with the patented technique. So the costs would remain almost the same,” Hari added.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)