It sounds like a marketing slogan that is too good to be true, but a snack food developed at Massey University may help prevent cancer.
And according to its inventor, Zeinab Dehghan-Shoar, it tastes good too.
A PhD student at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Ms Dehghan-Shoar created the food by adding tomato skins to extruded maize snacks.
This gave the maize an enticing red-colouring but more importantly the extrusion cooking process unlocks lycopene from the tomato, making it more easily digestible.
Lycopene is a pigment with high antioxidant properties and it has been suggested that it could prevent certain cancers.
"It is always better to prevent a disease than treat it," Ms Dehghan-Shoar said.
"I enjoyed these types of snacks when I was young and see children enjoying them now, but I realised they were energy-dense and the colours in them were not natural," she said.
"So I wanted to improve their nutritional value and develop a natural colour for them."
Ms Dehghan-Shoar said following her mother's death from cancer she wanted to introduce healthier foods to people.
Ms Dehghan-Shoar used the extruder at Massey's Food Pilot Plant to add the tomato skins to the base mix of maize grits.
Extruders are used to make a range of food products, from cheese snacks and crackers to dry cat food. Raw ingredients are added to the extruder which cooks and shapes the food in seconds.
Different vegetables were considered for colour and health benefits, including purple cabbage.
"But I thought tomato skin, because of its fibre content and the red pigment it has, would work," Ms Dehghan-Shoar said.
"Our experiments show [lycopene] can be absorbed more easily from the extruded snacks compared with the raw tomato.
"Processing it a little bit breaks down the cells to release the pigment, making it easier for the body to use."
The snack is also high in fibre, adding to its nutritional value, and most importantly tastes good.
"We carried out a sensory trial on the tomato-based snacks, and tasters rated them highly."
The tomato skins are a waste product as they are usually discarded by the food industry, so the snacks were not only healthy, but also low-cost.
Further research using pumpkin and carrots could determine whether other beneficial antioxidants, especially beta-Carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, could be delivered by these snack foods.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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