Introduction

Preventing the loss of vitamins and nutrients in foods is a paramount concern at all stages of food processing involving heating. One example of the critical need for retaining vitamins is to nourish hospital patients who require vitamins to recover from the stress of illness or surgery.1 This issue has invoked recent studies comparing cook/chill and cook/hot-hold foodservice practices in hospitals in an effort to minimise the loss of vitamins and nutrients that occurs when foods are heated.2 Thermal processing is the most widely used method for destroying microorganisms and imparting foods with a lasting shelf-life.3 Despite its many significant advantages, this mode of food preservation unavoidably degrades the vitamin and nutrient levels to some extent. As an alternative thermal method, ohmic heating ensures the benefits of conventional thermal processing (food safety and preservation) while offering the potential for improvements in the retention of vitamins and nutrients.

This chapter starts with a brief introduction to ohmic heating followed by descriptions of its unique heating characteristics that can attenuate the thermal destruction of nutrients. The effects of ohmic heating on nutrients will be discussed under three headings: (1) thermal destruction of nutrients and functional compounds, (2) nutrient loss through diffusion, and (3) electrolysis and contamination. Future trends and need for research are also discussed.

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