06 January, 2009

Honey adds health benefits, is natural preservative and sweetener in salad dressings

Food manufacturers, responding to consumers who prefer products with natural ingredients, find that antioxidant-rich honey is a healthy alternative to chemical additives and refined sweeteners in commercial salad dressings. A University of Illinois study co-authored by scientist from Kraft Foods and Newlywed Foods monitored the effects of adding honey to salad dressing.

Clover and blueberry honey replaced EDTA (an additive used to keep oils from oxidizing) and high-fructose corn syrup (used to sweeten the recipes). Honeyed dressings were compared to a control dressing that contained these ingredients.

Salad dressings are emulsions—they contain oil and water. To keep these ingredients together in one phase, manufacturers rely on emulsifiers and thickening agents to avoid thinning of the dressing and separation of the oil and water. However, enzymes in the honey broke the emulsion by attacking the starch that was used to thicken the dressing. Scientists added xanthan gum as a thickening agent to all the dressings.

The dressings were stored under various conditions: 37 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for six weeks, and at 23 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit-room temperature) and 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit-refrigerator temperature) for one year. Dressings were evaluated for their oxidative stability.

After nine months of storage, both types of honey were as effective as EDTA in protecting against oxidation or spoilage. Of 19 honeys with varying characteristics originally considered, clover and blueberry honeys excelled in an analysis of sweetening potential, antioxidant activity, and phenolic profiles. Blueberry honey performed slightly better than clover in the study.

The manufacturers hope that salad dressings made with honey will appeal to consumers.

The article was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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