We're converting food otherwise lost from the supply chain to help boost our population's vegetable intake.
We need to eat more – and waste less – vegetables
Despite the known health benefits of a vegetable-rich diet, many people all over the world struggle to meet recommended veggie intakes.
>In fact, according to the latest Australian Health Survey, only seven per cent of Australian adults eat the recommended 5+ servings of vegetables per day.
More unfortunate still is that while our average diet may be lacking in vegetables, our landfill is not: an estimated 1.3 billion metric tonnes of food produced for global human consumption is lost or wasted from the food supply chain each year.
We waste root and tuber vegetables at an alarmingly high rate (up to 60 per cent). In high income countries like Australia, for example, about one third of edible carrots don't reach consumers because they don't meet aesthetic standards set by retailers.
Converting otherwise wasted carrots into an easy-to-eat powder
Changing dietary behaviour can be difficult, so we set out to find an effective strategy that could boost people's vegetable intakes without requiring them to significantly change their eating habits.
Previous research has shown that the effort it takes to prepare vegetables, along with their sensory characteristics, are the major factors that discourage people from including vegetables in their diet.
A powder made from carrots – simple enough to add to foods usually eaten like pasta sauces, smoothies and casseroles – and which otherwise would be wasted from the food supply chain, was identified by our researchers as the ideal solution.
Carrot powder can effectively supplement vegetable intake
We conducted a clinical trial to determine whether this new carrot powder could effectively supplement a person's vegetable intake compared to a diet of fresh vegetables.
Half of our research participants were instructed to eat two serves of carrot powder per day, and the other half to eat two serves of carotenoid-rich veggies such as carrots, broccoli and tomatoes, every day for one month.
Both groups showed improved blood measures, but taste-wise, the carrot powder group enjoyed their product a little less than the fresh veggie group.
While our results show that carrot powder can effectively supplement a person's vegetable intake, we will need to determine and test new ways to improve consumer acceptance.