Chilean nutrition experts have used 3D printing to develop children’s foods that not only look good, but are also packed with valuable nutrients. The healthy food simply contains dehydrated cochayuyo, a seaweed commonly eaten in Chile, instant mashed potatoes, and hot water. With these 3D printed creations, the experts hope to revolutionize the food market in the future, especially when it comes to infant nutrition.
Cochayuyo, often referred to in English as New Zealand bull kelp or its scientific name Durvillaea antarctica, is an edible seaweed that has been an important food resource for indigenous Chileans for centuries. The algae belongs to the Phaeophyta botanical family, also called brown algae, and is native to the cliffs of Chile. There it grows on rocks and especially in places with intense waves and depth. The algae are still collected there today in sometimes dangerous conditions and dried on the rocks.
The seaweed is said to have healing properties. For example, it is used against heartburn and constipation, but it also has a cholesterol-lowering and weight-lowering effect. It is also rich in important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, polyphenols, vitamins B and B1, and iron. In addition, having 11g of protein per 100g, it is an important source of vegetable protein. There are many possibilities for the consumption of Cochayuyo seaweed and it is very easy to prepare. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook and dehydrate. It can then be used in soups, salads, stews, as an ingredient in paellas, and much more.
Using 3D printed food in Chile to make eating fun
Using 3D printing, Roberto Lemus, a professor at the University of Chile, and several of his students have managed to develop nutritious edible figures. Because these are primarily intended for children, they come in all sorts of forms, like Pokémon or animals. However, the main focus, according to Professor Lemus, will be on the nutritional content of the figurines. According to him, the product must be very nutritious for people, but it must also be tasty so that children also like to eat it.
“We look for different shapes, fun figures, visual effects, colors, tastes, aromas and smells,” says Lemus. “The product has to be very nutritious for people, but it also has to be tasty. “
To make these figures, dehydrated Cochayuyo seaweed is ground into Cochayuyo flour, which is then mixed with instant mashed potatoes. After that, hot water is added to form a jelly-like substance. According to Lemus, the starch contained in the mix stabilizes the printing process. This substance then serves as the raw material for the 3D printing process, in which the figurines are produced in just seven minutes with the help of a 3D food printer. The project, which has been under investigation for about two years, is still in its infancy, but the goal is to provide children with nutritious snacks that are not only healthy but also fun to eat.
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*Cover photo credits: AFP