KARACHI: Date pits, a major by-product of the date processing industry that often go waste, can play a highly beneficial role in producing bakery products of enhanced nutritional value at economical cost, suggests a research jointly carried out by a team of researchers at Karachi University (KU) and Jinnah University for Women (JUW).

The team found that date pit flour can be used as a fat replacer and a vital nutritional component in the commercial production of wheat flour-based biscuits.

The study — Impact of the incorporation of date pit flour an underutilized biowaste in dough and its functional role as a fat replacer in biscuits — is published in the international Journal of Food Processing and Preservation.

Dr Syed Muhammad Ghufran Saeed, Saman Urooj, Dr Syed Arsalan Ali, Dr Rashida Ali, Dr Lubna Mobin, Dr Rahil Ahmed, all associated with KU’s department of food science and technology and Dr Syed Asad Sayeed of JUW took part in the study.

The team prepared biscuits using date pit flour, wheat flour and other locally procured ingredients such as fresh whole eggs, salt, butter and icing sugar and evaluated the properties of the flour and biscuits.

It found that different concentrations of date pit flour and wheat flour had high contents of minerals, crude fibres, proteins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants in contrast to the commercial wheat flour that showed lowest values for all these components.

It was observed the crude fibre and protein contents of date pit flour-wheat flour biscuits were improved from 0.44 to 8.70 per cent and 11.79 to 12.69 per cent, respectively.

The total phenolic (antioxidant) content and total flavonoid content increased from 18.56mg to 451.60mg (GAE/100gm of sample) and 27.43mg to 361.20mg (CE/100gm), respectively.

“We replaced butter up to 20 per cent with date pit flour and the results were great. The use of date pit flour can easily bring down the biscuit manufacturing cost up to 15 per cent. Due to the specific taste of date pit composite flour and its colour, it can also be utilised as a replacement of coca powder in baked products,” said Dr Syed Muhammad Ghufran Saeed, adding that a local outlet had signed a contract with the department for biscuits’ commercial production.

‘Fat intake causes diseases’

Explaining the study’s importance, Dr Saeed said high amounts of fat intake in the diet is the primary cause of various chronic degenerative diseases, a leading cause of concern for consumers today.

“Biscuits are a popular bakery product but their nutritional status often gets suppressed or deteriorated by the quality and quantity of the fat added. Through this study, we have attempted to provide a healthy fat replacement in wheat flour-based biscuits.”

He emphasised that there was a need to develop low-calorie baked goods. It could be done by finding a healthy replacement of fat content without any undesirable impact on the edible quality of the end product.

Date processing industries

“We used pits of Aseel dates as they are high in demand and good in stability. These dates are grown in Sindh and Balochistan, exported in large quantities and used in preparing different products including vinegar and alcohol,” Dr Saeed shared, adding that date pit flour being a natural source was an excellent option to fortify food products with vital vitamins and minerals.

The research team believed that the current approach enhanced the economy of date processing industries by providing value to waste as date pits were mostly discarded or used as animal feed.

Date pits, the team said, had never been explored for commercial use in food manufacturing, though it’s an essential source of nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, carbohydrates, dietary fibres, antioxidants, and phytochemicals such as polyphenols and flavonoids.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021

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