Lean, Mean Fighting Machine Needs Fat
By Jill Lee
March 18, 1997
Wanted: High-energy beef sticks to sustain U.S. military troops during times
of high physical stress.
A low-fat diet is normally recommended for healthy eating. But when military
personnel are in combat or other situations where physical demands are
enormous, they need the extra nutritional energy that a high-fat snack can
provide. An ideal snack for this purpose would have 40 percent fat, 30 percent
carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 5 percent moisture. The only problem: The
high temperatures needed to make such a product would melt the fat out of it.
Scientists with USDAs
Agricultural Research Service have
discovered that adding fiber from the insides of peas helps meat retain almost
all of its fat during heating without affecting flavor.
Fat isnt always stable in foods. It naturally breaks down over time,
and cooking or refrigeration can speed up the process. When fat degrades in
low-fat foods, flavor fades. The ARS scientists will evaluate pea fibers
potential as an ingredient in low-fat meat products, where any loss of fat
during cooking can be detrimental.
The ARS researchers have tested the fat-holding potential of several
plant-based binders including soy fiber, rice and sunflower meal. Of all the
additives, only pea fiber retained essentially all of the fat. Pea fiber also
improved cooking yields of ground beef. Next, the scientists will help the
military find the right combination of pea fiber, starch and fat for maximum
nutrition in their meat sticks. Theyll also take a look at how well the
formula holds up under extrusion machines needed to make the snacks.
Scientific contact: Brad Berry,
Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8994, e-mail