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  1. Health

A look at the future of food

The highlight of the Institute of Food Technology gathering in July was meeting Karla Chambers, vice president of Stahlbush Island Farms. Her book, Farming, Food & Fine Art (available at amazon.com), is filled with easy-to-prepare fruit and vegetable recipes with full color photos that will make your mouth water. She also has a "recipe and coloring book," The Color of Nutrition, that encourages better eating habits, especially from a young age (available at stahlbush.com). The accompanying Vegetable Stir-Fry recipe is a good example of healthy eating featured in Chambers' book.

There were plenty of things on the menu at the IFT conference.

Corn was showcased as a gluten-free whole grain that will be used by such food manufacturers as Kellogg's, Post and Pepperidge Farm in cereal bars, crackers, baby snacks and baking mixes.

Stevia also was a topic of discussion. Because of the amount of land needed to grow stevia plants, the source of the alternative sweetener stevia, Cargill, which makes Truvia, and Evolva, a synthetic biology pioneer, plan to convert corn into steviol glycosides through a fermentation process that begins with genetically engineered baker's yeast.

Another low-calorie sugar, "allulose," offered excitement for drink, yogurt, ice cream and baked goods manufacturers. Allulose has the bulk, texture and taste of sugar with no calories and 70 percent of the sweetness. Whether it can be labeled "natural" has yet to be decided. Allulose is found in small amounts in some fruits, but the manufactured product is produced through the enzymatic conversion of corn, sugar or other materials that contain fructose.

The real showstopper at the conference was cricket powder. Dr. Aaron Dossey, founder and CEO of bug ingredients and research firm All Things Bug, said many producers roast and then grind crickets to make a dark, coarse powder. He grinds crickets before heat-treating them, creating a paler, firmer powder with a more neutral flavor that has a shelf life of 12 months and can be used in muffins, pancakes and protein powders.

Aquatic plants might well be the next source of healthy oils, according to Mark Brooks, senior vice president of Solazyme. Algae oil does not contain trans fats and is a monounsaturated fat like olive oil. In the future, it could be used in mayonnaise, salad dressings and fried foods.

Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.

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