The first low-fat nuts, which debuted at Natural Products Expo East last year under the Nachalur Natural brand, are made using a process developed by inventors Vilambi N. Reddy, Anil Torgalkar and Lionel Xavier from Apptec, Inc, which is part of the Apptec group of companies.
‘Apptec Health Food, Inc has figured out a way to remove fat and calories from peanuts’
In the patent application (US#20130078348) published last week (March 28), which you can read here, Apptec says: “There is a need for a low calorie nut, especially a peanut that is low in fat. [But] the processes that are in use today to form low calorie nuts are too slow to be viable for commercial manufacturing.
“In addition, the low calorie nuts formed by state of the art processes are unappealing in texture and taste.
“The market has a compelling need for an economical process to rapidly prepare low calorie, low fat snack nuts that appeal to consumers.”
‘The market has a compelling need for an economical process to rapidly prepare low calorie, low fat snack nuts’
To address this issue, Apptec has developed a solvent-free ‘quasi-continuous’ high-speed physical process that “exhibits significantly lower process times and higher yields than the prior art processes”.
This involves expelling 20-50% of the oil from nutmeat kernels using a “novel pressing process that takes less than a minute”. The expelled oil is simultaneously removed and collected using a vacuum pump.
The deformed/flattened nuts are then reformed to their original shape using water and hardened using cold water, dried, coated and roasted.
30% less fat, 25% fewer calories and 20% more protein and fiber
Nachalur Natural peanuts - the first product to emerge using the patent-pending technology - have 30% less fat, 25% fewer calories and 20% more protein and fiber than regular peanuts and are available in three flavors, Sea Salt, Honey and Spicy.
In a publicity material promoting the low fat nuts, Apptec Health Food says: “Peanuts are one of the top selling snack foods, yet consumers have an underlying concern about their high fat content...UNTIL NOW!
“Apptec Health Food, Inc has figured out a way to remove fat and calories from peanuts, while increasing protein and fiber, without losing the crunchy texture or great flavor found in regular peanuts.”
Almond Board of California: From a purely nutritional perspective, it’s debatable whether this makes sense
But does squeezing the fat out of nuts - which experts argue is responsible for a large proportion of their health benefits (nuts are particularly rich in healthy monounsaturated fats) - make sense from a nutritional perspective?
Dr. Karen Lapsley, chief scientific officer at the Almond Board of California, told FoodNavigator-USA that she was not convinced.
She added: “From a purely nutritional perspective, it’s debatable whether this makes sense, given that the monounsaturated fats in almonds play a role in some of their health benefits, most prominently the role they can play in a heart-healthy diet.
“Snacking on a handful of almonds a day has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and in fact, the American Heart Association has certified almonds to display the Heart-Check mark for heart-healthy foods.”
Peanut Institute: The healthy oils in peanuts contribute to making them one of the heart-healthiest foods you can eat
Meanwhile, Peanut Institute director Pat Kearney, MEd, RD, said she could not comment on the specific products in question, but noted that the healthy oils in peanuts are key to their heart-healthy credentials.
“The healthy oils in peanuts contribute to making them one of the heart-healthiest foods you can eat daily in small amounts to substantially reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, there is not a caloric problem with a serving of peanuts (about 160 calories).”
Apptec Health Foods VP marketing Maggie Marchese told FoodNavigator-USA that the firm is targeting the natural specialty channel as it seeks to expand distribution for the nuts, and had conducted "extensive consumer research", which showed that while consumers were aware that the fat in nuts is healthy, they wanted snacks with fewer calories.
She added: "We're only squeezing out about 30% of the fat."
Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University, told FoodNavigator-USA that this was a valid point, adding: "Calories are a major concern now. And, even though the good fat is reduced in the new nut product, it still has 65% of its original fat content.
"Thus, consumers will benefit from the product if they like it."
However, she cautioned consumers to always read the label, pointing out that reduced fat nut butters on the market did not always have fewer calories.