New research has suggested that adding citrus fibre to meatballs at levels between one and five per cent can increase the cooking yield and nutritional value of the recipe, without causing unacceptable alterations to the texture and colour of the meatballs.
Led by Ayca Gedikoglu from the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, the research team noted that many diets fall short of meeting nutritional guidelines - with many people consuming only half of the recommended daily amount of fibre. The result of this, the researchers suggest, is burgeoning obesity rates and health problems across in the USA and the Western world.
Speaking at the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) conference, Gedikoglu and her colleagues suggested that one way to address the 'fibre deficit' is by including citrus fibre in ground beef recipes while still retaining the quality and taste of the meat.
She noted that a restaurant-sized serving of her citrus meatballs - containing 2% citrus powder - contains approximately five grams of fibre.
Traditionally, meatballs contain no fibre, added Gedikoglu - who suggested that the citrus powder could be used as a replacement for bread crumbs in meatball recipes. Based on her initial tests, Gedikoglu also suggested that adding citrus powder to some hamburger recipes could have benefits and may even add flavour by capitalising on tangy citrus flavours.
The research team tested three batches of meatballs, with varying percentages of the meat substituted with citrus powder, to see how much of the powder - which has a sweet and tangy taste - could be added without adversely affecting the meatballs' texture and cooking characteristics.
Citrus powder, which is made from citrus peels that are rich in flavonoids, are relatively inexpensive, noted the researchers, who tested the impact of citrus powder use at 1%, 5% and 10% increments.
The team found that the addition of fibre at 1% and 5% was acceptable in terms of texture, flavour and colour, leading to the conclusion that the powder could be used to increase the nutritional value of meatballs and other products that use ground meat in their recipes.
Gedikoglu said the next step is to conduct a series of taste tests. She also plans to study the potential antioxidant benefits of citrus powder.