Crusty Chemistry

Want to make a piece of pizza healthier? Try using whole-wheat dough. Give it a full 2 days to rise, and then cook the tomato pie a little longer and hotter than usual. That was the recipe shared last week by researchers at the American Chemical Society meeting in Chicago.
DEEP DISH BONANZA. The thick crust of "Chicago-style," deep-dish pizza makes it a good candidate for the longer, hotter baking that boosts whole wheat dough's antioxidant activity.iStockphoto
Jeffrey Moore and Liangli Lucy Yu of the University of Maryland at College Park have been experimenting with pizza-making techniques in hopes of unleashing the full antioxidant potential of trace nutrients in wheat bran. Oxidants, generally referred to as free radicals, are biologically reactive molecular fragments that can damage cells of the body. Many diseases stem from the body's inability to keep those fragments in check. However, studies have indicated that foods rich in antioxidants can quash such free radicals and sometimes spare tissues from damage.
Most pizza makers give their yeasty dough a few hours to ferment, the chemical-biological process responsible for its rise. Working with two common wheat flours, "we found that increasing fermentation time to 48 hours doubled the amount of antioxidants called phenolic acids in the dough," Moore says. In general, values climbed from about 4 micrograms of free, or unbound, phenolic acids per gram of starting wheat to 8 µg/g. Ferulic acid proved the main contributor to this antioxidant climb.
In a different set of experiments, the food chemists tinkered with baking conditions and then ran five different test-tube assays of the crust's antioxidant activity—its ability to quash free radicals. At the meeting, they reported finding a 60 percent increase in the crust's antioxidant activity for deep-dish, "Chicago-style," pizzas that had been baked at 400 °F for 14 minutes versus 7 minutes. If the scientists instead raised the temperature to 550°F, the antioxidant activity in a pizza baked for 7 minutes increased by 80 percent.
In principle, Moore says, pizza makers should be able to increase both baking time and temperature—if they watch the pie so it doesn't burn. Deep-dish pizzas are particularly good candidates for this recipe meddling, Moore says, because they generally require longer baking times than thin-crust pizzas do.
The Maryland team focused on whole wheat crust because it has abundant fiber—a nutrient short in most U.S. diets—and includes the source of most of the grain's antioxidants. Although white flour carries fewer antioxidants, crusts made from it should also be candidates for antioxidant boosting, Moore says. Nevertheless, he suspects that the spike wouldn't be nearly as impressive as for whole-wheat crust.
The researchers have begun probing why the antioxidant increase occurs. They suspect that something in fermentation and baking processes unleash phenolic acids otherwise rendered inert by being bound to other plant materials in flour.
Moore points out that there isn't anything magical about pizza dough. A similar tinkering with baking times and temperatures should give other whole wheat bakery goods—most notably breads—boosts in their antioxidant content and activity.

By: Janet Raloff

Posted: Karen fuentes

1 comment:

chemistry 1045 said...

It is interesting to see that everything that surrounds us is related with chemistry!.. Even the food that we eat!, and how these nutrients are transformed into healthier food just by using whole wheat ingrediendts and leaving it a few more minutes inside the oven!!

Thanks for sharing!!