Low-calorie 'butter' made from 80% water

Thursday, 22 August, 2019

Low-calorie 'butter' made from 80% water

Scientists have developed an emulsion process that uses a 4:1 water-to-oil ratio to produce a product that mimics a creamy butter, the low-cal way.

The low-calorie ‘butter’ spread created by Cornell University scientists consists mostly of water, so one tablespoon of the product has just 2.8 g of fat and 25.2 calories (105 kilojoules). On the other hand, butter has 84% fat and about 16% water, so a tablespoon contains around 11 g of fat and nearly 100 calories (418 kilojoules).

The scientists developed a new process to emulsify a large amount of water with minuscule drops of vegetable oil and milk fat to mimic butter, at approximately one-fourth the calories of real butter and without artificial stabilisers.

“Imagine 80% water in 20% oil and we create something with the consistency of butter, with the mouthfeel of butter and creaminess of butter,” said food science professor Alireza Abbaspourrad, who is the senior author of the study.

Emulsifying water and oil is nothing new, said Abbaspourrad, but by using high-internal phase emulsions (HIPE), “we keep adding water to that oil until the final composition is 80% water and 20% oil”.

Using a special emulsion process, water is added to oil. When the water-to-oil ratio is 4:1, the oil spheres begin to deform and pack tightly against one another, resulting in a product that behaves like butter. Image credit: Jason Koski, Cornell University.

The demand for low-fat, high-protein products has rapidly increased due to consumers’ growing health awareness, said lead author Michelle C Lee, a doctoral candidate in Abbaspourrad’s research group.

“Since the HIPE technology features high water-to-oil ratios — while simultaneously delivering unique texture and functionality — it can play a role in providing healthier solutions for consumers,” Lee said.

Abbaspourrad said food chemists can adjust for taste, preferences and health.

“We can add milk protein or plant-based protein, and since the water acts like a carrier, we can adjust for nutrition and load it with vitamins or add flavours,” he said. “Essentially, we can create something that makes it feel like butter and instead of seeing a lot of saturated fat, this has minute amounts. It’s a completely different formulation.”

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/New Africa

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