Feliz Koksel in her lab. Courtesy / Thomas Fricke.

Scientific benefits of plant-based alternatives

By Truc Nguyen

Filiz Koksel loves playing with food. The bubbles in bread dough, puffed snacks and breakfast cereals have occupied her scientific attention for years. “I’m fascinated by how bubbles change their shape and size and, at the end, contribute substantially to the end product quality.”

But it’s not all fun and games for this Turkish-Canadian food scientist, researcher and associate professor at the University of Manitoba. Currently, she’s investigating how extrusion technology, which is used in the manufacture of many processed foods, can be used to make plant protein-enriched snacks, cereals and meat alternatives.

It’s a timely topic. Increasingly, Canadians want to incorporate more plant-based protein into their diets, a shift that’s good for the planet, too. “Plant-based food products have lower carbon and water footprints,” Koksel points out.

Her research team is working on projects related to plant-based meat alternatives and how to add value to industry by-products, such as the spent grain left over from beer making. One study investigates how extrusion technology can be used to make texturized vegetable proteins to replace, partially, the meat in common foods, such as a burger patty.

Koksel’s next mission: preparing a new generation of food scientists for careers in Canada’s food industry and readying them to meet the challenges of the future. “The next generation of food scientists will make more plant-based alternatives accessible to Canadians, for better health and a better environment,” Koksel says.