Effects of Food Processing

Food processing can have positive or negative effects on nutrient bioavailability. For example, milling of grains removes all or part of the external covering of the grain (bran) that contains high amounts of phy-tic acid, an important inhibitor of bioavailability of divalent minerals, such as iron, zinc, and copper. One disadvantage of this form of food processing is that much of the mineral content of grains is in the bran fraction and is lost in the process of milling. To compensate for this loss of mineral (and some vitamins as well) grain products can be 'enriched' by fortifying the flour made from the milled grain with specific micronutrients. Simple food processing techniques, such as sprouting or fermentation, are also effective in lowering the phytate content and increasing mineral bioavailability of grains. Other techniques used in food manufacturing, such as browning, which produces the Maillard reaction, and extrusion, can have negative effects on bioavail-ability of certain nutrients. Processing practices that affect the polyphenol content of cereals and legumes can influence nutrient bioavailability. Polyphenols interact with plant proteins and form tannin-protein complexes that can inactivate enzymes or lead to protein insolubility adversely influencing amino acid and protein bioavailability. The antinutritional properties of polyphenols can be decreased by removing them from grain with chemical treatments (such as alkaline treatment and ammonia) or removing from grain the polyphenol-rich pericarp and testa by pearling.

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