Boosting Nutrient-Packed Biscuits with a Mix of Different Foods for Better Nutrient Intake

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by Charis Kharkongor Ripnar

Nutrient Deficiency: A Brief Overview

Nutrient deficiency poses a significant health concern affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the body doesn't receive an adequate supply of essential vitamins and minerals, leading to various health problems. Nutrients such as vitamins A, iron, and zinc play a crucial role in maintaining our overall well-being. When these nutrients are lacking in our diet, our immune system can become compromised, making us more susceptible to illnesses and other health issues.

During my MSc in Agricultural Studies at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, I've been researching ways to create nutrient-enriched biscuits. These biscuits aim to deliver the essential nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy and grow properly. By fortifying these treats with key nutrients, I'm working to combat nutrient deficiencies and improve public health, ensuring everyone has access to the nutrition required for optimal well-being.
Comparing Cereal Grains to Legume Seeds

Cereal grains generally contain more protein, averaging around 10-12% when dry. In this study, we utilized ingredients like amaranth, green gram, and fruits and vegetables such as carrots and beetroot to produce nutrient-packed biscuits. Nuts like groundnuts and oil seeds like sesame seeds have a kernel inside a hard or brittle shell. These nuts and seeds are rich in protein and also boast a significant amount of healthy fats. They're not just good for protein; they're also packed with energy, as documented by Srilakshmi in 2006.

Our research aimed to address micronutrient deficiencies, a major health concern. Consequently, we decided to combine different food groups to create nutrient-packed biscuits. Our goal was to develop foods rich in nutrients by incorporating cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables and then assess their palatability. We selected these ingredients because they provide all the essential nutrients in one product. Amaranth, a cereal, contains numerous essential amino acids like lysine and methionine, which are vital for building proteins and carbohydrates. Green gram, a type of pulse, contains three times more protein than cereals. Carrots, a vegetable, were added to provide additional vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. We also included groundnut and sesame seeds for healthy fats and butter for the fats and oils group. We wanted to gauge whether people would enjoy consuming these nutrient-packed biscuits.
Trying Out Nutrient-Packed Biscuits: What People Thought

We produced nutrient-packed biscuits and distributed them to individuals at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. The participants included 45 people, comprising staff members (25) and female students (10). Our objective was to elicit their opinions regarding the biscuits. The participants represented a mix of genders and student categories.

Here's what we discovered: The majority (58%) liked the biscuits because they weren't overly sweet. Some (27%) didn't express a strong preference, while a few (15%) didn't enjoy them as much due to their mild sweetness. Some (18%) remarked that the biscuits reminded them of other biscuit varieties. A small percentage (2%) likened the taste to ragi biscuits, 13% likened them to marie biscuits, and 3% associated them with oatmeal biscuits. These comparisons arose because the biscuits were somewhat dry and not overly sweet.

Based on our findings, 15% of the participants believed the biscuits required no changes as they liked them as they were. 4% suggested incorporating ingredients like nuts, coconut, ajwain, or elaichi to enhance flavour and nutritional value. A few (3%) felt that the biscuits needed more baking time as they seemed slightly undercooked. About 8% believed the biscuits should have a sweet and salty balance, and 27% desired a sweeter taste. A small group (4%) preferred softer biscuits as they found them to be too hard. The remaining participants (16%) did not provide specific feedback.

In conclusion, the development and acceptance of nutrient-dense biscuits through the combination of diverse food groups hold great promise in addressing micronutrient deficiencies. This study underscores the potential of such blends to create biscuits with enhanced nutritional content. Participant feedback reflects positive acceptance, primarily attributed to reduced sugar content and unique flavours.

This research underscores the importance of catering to various preferences and dietary requirements. While many participants favoured the current biscuits, there is room for improvement in terms of taste and texture, as well as the inclusion of additional ingredients to enhance nutritional benefits.

Overall, this study highlights the significance of innovative approaches in tackling micronutrient deficiencies. By leveraging various food groups, we can not only produce convenient and tasty products but also contribute to improved public health. Such studies shape healthier eating habits and enhance well-being across diverse demographic groups.
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