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Study and characterization of a novel functional food: purple popcorn

Lago, Chiara, Landoni, Michela, Cassani, Elena, Doria, Enrico, Nielsen, Erik, Pilu, Roberto
Molecular breeding 2013 v.31 no.3 pp. 575-585
anthocyanins, antioxidant activity, chronic diseases, functional foods, high performance liquid chromatography, microwave treatment, oxidants, popcorn, popping, recurrent selection
Many phytonutrients seem to be able to combat the effects of oxidants which may lead to chronic diseases. Among them, anthocyanins have been studied for a long time, and different types of functional foods rich in these pigments are already available on the market. In particular, wine, berries and various cereals have already aroused consumers’ awareness, and in this context we propose a new and attractive healthy food: purple popcorn. Popcorn is the most popular American snack, now well known all over the world. A corn rich in anthocyanins, suitable to be transformed into a snack, could help to introduce healthy antioxidant compounds into the diet of many people, contributing to the prevention of chronic diseases. In this work we developed a coloured popcorn variety rich in anthocyanins (about 66 mg/100 g, mainly cyanidin) by a recurrent selection scheme, with the aim of obtaining a healthier snack. The selection was based on some quality characteristics such as anthocyanin content, popping ability and the popping expansion volume. The purple popcorn obtained was further analyzed by high pressure liquid chromatography and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical scavenging ability, before and after microwave treatment. The results obtained showed that, even though the microwave treatment reduced the anthocyanin content to about 46 %, the remaining anthocyanins exhibited a marked antioxidant capacity compared to the colourless control. Finally taste perception was also checked between coloured and uncoloured popcorn, and no difference was perceived.