Researchers Created the Vegan Spider Silk, a High-performance Film that Can be Used to Replace Single-used Plastics

Nicole Axworthy wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers from the University of Cambridge may have found a viable solution to single-use plastics: vegan spider silk. The new material is a synthetic polymer film that mimics the properties of spider silk, which is one of the strongest materials in nature. Because of its strength, the material could replace plastic in many common household products.

The vegan spider silk was created using a new approach for assembling plant proteins into materials that mimic silk on a molecular level. The energy-efficient method uses sustainable ingredients and results in a plastic-like, free-standing film, which can be made at an industrial scale. The material is also compostable, unlike other types of bioplastics which require industrial composting facilities to degrade.

A surprise finding

The researchers developed the material while studying something entirely different: proteins and Alzheimer’s disease. Tuomas Knowles, a University of Cambridge chemistry professor and lead researcher, was analyzing proteins to understand why, in some instances, proteins become malformed, leading to diseases and health problems in humans.

“We normally investigate how functional protein interactions allow us to stay healthy and how irregular interactions are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease,” Knowles said. “It was a surprise to find our research could also address a big problem in sustainability: that of plastic pollution.”

As part of their research, Knowles and his team became interested in why materials like spider silk are so strong when they have such weak molecular bonds, and they found that one of the key features that gives spider silk its strength is the hydrogen bonds, which are arranged regularly in space and at a very high density. The team also looked at how to replicate this feature in other plant proteins. They successfully replicated the structures found on spider silk by using soy protein isolate, a protein with a completely different composition. VegNews.SpiderWeb2

“Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk,” Knowles said. “In a spider, the silk protein is dissolved in an aqueous solution, which then assembles into an immensely strong fibre through a spinning process which requires very little energy.” The researchers used soy protein isolate as their test plant protein, since it is readily available as a byproduct of soybean oil production.

A high-performance material

The new material can perform similar to high-performance engineering plastics such as low-density polyethylene. Its benefit is that it does not require chemical cross-linking, which is frequently used to improve the performance and resistance of biopolymer films. The most commonly used cross-linking agents are non-sustainable and can even be toxic.

“This is the culmination of something we’ve been working on for over 10 years, which is understanding how nature generates materials from proteins,” Knowles said. “We didn’t set out to solve a sustainability challenge—we were motivated by curiosity as to how to create strong materials from weak interactions.”VegNews.SpiderSilk

The new product will be commercialized by Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out company developing replacements for single-use plastic and microplastics. Later this year, the company will introduce a range of single-use sachets and capsules, which can replace the plastic used in everyday products like dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules.

Source: Veg News

How Healthy Are the New Plant-Based ‘Fake Meats’?

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

More and more Americans are seeking out healthier, greener and more ethical alternatives to meat, but are plant-based alternatives like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat truly nutritious substitutes?

The answer is yes, according to new research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It found the imitation meats to be a good source of fiber, folate and iron while containing less saturated fat than ground beef. But the researchers said they also have less protein, zinc and vitamin B12 — and lots of salt.

“Switching from ground beef to a plant-based ground beef alternative product can be a healthy choice in some ways,” said lead researcher Lisa Harnack, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in Minneapolis.

Her advice: Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose a product that best matches your health and nutrition goals.

For example, if you’re limiting sodium to control high blood pressure, steer clear of products that are high in salt, Harnack said.

“If you’re watching saturated fat intake for heart health, read the label to make sure you’re choosing a product that is low in saturated fat,” she said. “A few products contain as much or nearly as much saturated fat as ground beef.”

For the study, Harnack’s team used a University of Minnesota food and nutrient database that includes 37 plant-based ground beef alternative products made by nine food companies.

The products analyzed are from Amy’s Kitchen, Inc.; Beyond Meat; Conagra, Inc.; Impossible Foods Inc.; Kellogg NA Co.; Kraft Foods, Inc.; Marlow Foods Ltd.; Tofurky; and Worthington.

Although these plant-based products can be healthy alternatives to beef, Harnack hopes their manufacturers will make them even healthier by keeping salt to a minimum.

“Food companies should work to optimize the nutritional quality of their products, especially with respect to the amount of salt and other sodium-containing ingredients used in formulating veggie burgers and other plant-based ground beef alternative products,” Harnack said.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, reviewed the findings.

She noted that the World Health Organization has classified processed meats (deli meats, bacon and sausage) as potentially cancer-causing, and red meat (veal, lamb, beef and pork) as probable cancer-causing substances, due to the processing, compounds in the meat and cooking methods.

“Limiting consumption of red and processed meats significantly lowers one’s intake of saturated fat,” Heller said.

The sodium in some plant-based imitation meats may be moderate to high, but if most of the foods people eat are less-processed ones, it should not be a problem, she added.

“All in all, eating more plants and fewer animals is good for your health and the health of the planet,” Heller said.

But “meat alternative” is not an ideal term, she added, because it sets up expectations of taste.

“While some plant-based ‘meats’ come close to the taste and texture of real meat, the idea is that these foods offer a different choice for protein, not a one-on-one swap out for meat or other animal foods,” Heller explained.

Many options exist for those seeking a more plant-based diet, she said.

“Whole foods are best, but there is plenty of wiggle room to include plant-based meat, dairy, poultry and egg alternatives,” Heller advised. “On a daily basis if we eat a balanced, more plant-rich diet, we should be able to meet our nutrient needs.”

The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Source: HealthDay

Hong Kong Company Reveals Full Range of Plant-Based Seafood and Burgers

Following the worldwide success of its OmniPork series, including OmniPork Mince, OmniPork Strip and OmniPork Luncheon, which are now available at over 40,000 points of sale, OmniFoods today announces the launch of OmniSeafood, comprising a full range of plant-based seafood products.

“With today’s milestone launch of OmniSeafood, we believe it is a big leap forward to a real sea change.”

This May, the Hong Kong based plant-based phenomenon, which provides its famous vegan SPAM to McDonald’s in China, announced the major news of an international price reduction of 22% across signature products OmniPork Mince and OmniPork Strip as well as a 17% drop for OmniPork Luncheon, also announcing it is ramping up production in Thailand, establishing a second production site in China’s Guangdong province, and actively seeking a further production site in Taiwan.

Created with a proprietary blend of plant-based protein from non-GMO soy, pea and rice, the new range consists of Omni Classic Fillet, Omni Golden Fillet, and Omni Ocean Burger, in original, battered or breaded fish burger varieties, along with OmniTuna and the forthcoming OmniSalmon.

OmniTuna is the first ambient product of OmniFoods, which is to be followed by OmniSalmon. The range contains omega-3 ALA derived from non-GMO expeller-pressed canola oil, all products are certified vegan and Buddhist-friendly, and are free from trans-fat and cholesterol, hormones, artificial colours, MSGs, added antibiotics or preservatives.

“We cannot tackle climate change without taking care of the ocean”

David Yeung, founder and CEO of Green Monday Group and OmniFoods, said, “We cannot tackle climate change without taking care of the ocean. Overfishing and bottom trawling are the most destructive actions that devastate our marine ecosystems. That explains why since the breakthrough launch of OmniPork in 2018, we started setting our focus on seafood. After years of R&D and dedication, we are thrilled to officially unveil this revolutionary OmniSeafood series on this special occasion of World Oceans Day.

“This breakthrough guarantees not only to wow our taste buds, but also to awaken our consciousness towards the ocean and the planet. With today’s milestone launch of OmniSeafood, we believe it is a big leap forward to a real sea change.”

Source: Vegconomist

Colds, Bronchitis Cases Resurged After Texas Eased COVID Rules

After Texas relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, other respiratory illnesses — such as colds, bronchitis and pneumonia — made rapid rebounds.

Pathologists from Houston Methodist Hospital found that the rhinovirus and enterovirus infections that can trigger these illnesses started rebounding in the fall of last year after Texas eased capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

More recently, they found that seasonal colds, as well as parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) had strong increases in two months after Texas ended its mask mandate in early March and allowed businesses to operate at full capacity.

“This sharp resurgence we’re seeing of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston is not surprising now that mask mandates have been lifted in Texas, and other precautions, such as social distancing and occupancy limits in stores, restaurants and events, have been removed.” said corresponding author Dr. S. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist.

In mid-May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines allowing people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume activities without masks or social distancing.

“Reports of non-COVID respiratory viral illnesses surging after COVID restrictions are lifted has been reported in Australia and elsewhere, and we’re now starting to see it happen in the U.S.,” Long said in a hospital news release.

The findings were posted on the preprint server medRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed.

Parainfluenza — a common virus that can cause respiratory illnesses, such as colds, bronchitis, croup and pneumonia — rose 424% in Houston from March to April, the study found. It also increased 189% from April through May 25.

Seasonal non-COVID coronaviruses, which usually appear in winter and decline in March, increased 211% from March to April and continued to increase in May, the study found.

Rhinovirus and enterovirus cases increased 85% from March to April. RSV cases increased 166% by May 25 when compared to April.

“For more than a year, COVID-19 was the primary cause of respiratory illness in the U.S., but now as we relax restrictions, it is important for clinicians to consider other respiratory pathogens may be causing spikes in disease outside of their usual seasonal peaks,” Long said.

“The study clearly demonstrates the utility of masks and social distancing and the effect these non-pharmacologic precautions had on suppressing all respiratory viruses, not just COVID-19,” he added.

Source: HealthDay

Grilled Oyster Mushroom Kebabs With Parsley-Spinach Purée

Ingredients

2 cups loosely packed fresh parsley (leaves and stems)
4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt (may substitute non-dairy yogurt of your choice)
1 (2-inch) piece fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp fine sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 lb oyster mushrooms
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sumac, divided

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and fill a large bowl with ice water. Blanch the parsley in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then add the spinach and blanch both together for another 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the greens to the ice water and leave until they are cool enough to handle. Drain in a colander or fine-mesh strainer. Form the greens into a ball and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer to a kitchen towel, and wring it out until the greens are almost completely dry.
  2. Transfer the greens to a blender and add the yogurt, turmeric, garlic, 1/2 tsp of the salt and the cardamom. Purée until smooth. (Add water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, if needed, to help the mixture blend.) If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter with charcoal, light it, and when the coals are red hot, dump them into your grill. Add more charcoal. When all the coals have ashed over and are grey but are still very hot, about 15 minutes, your grill should be medium hot. (Use a grill thermometer or test the heat by holding your hand, palm-down, about 5 inches from the grill. If you can hold it there for 4 to 5 seconds, the heat should be medium heat, or 350 to 450 degrees. (Alternatively, you can cook these on a gas grill or on a stove-top grill pan.) Slice the mushrooms off their cluster, leaving a very small amount of stem intact.
  3. Using four metal or soaked wooden skewers, thread the mushrooms through the stems, gill-side down, alternating the tops of the mushrooms from left to right so they cook evenly. You should end up with four full skewers.
  4. Brush the mushrooms with a generous amount of oil to coat, including gills. Season with the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp of the sumac.
  5. Grill the mushrooms for 2 minutes, then flip the skewers and continue to grill, flipping every 2 minutes, until the edges start to curl and brown, the mushrooms have shrunk significantly, and the stems are soft to the touch, about 8 minutes total.
  6. Spread the purée evenly on a platter.
  7. Lightly dust the purée with the remaining 1/2 tsp of sumac, place the mushroom skewers on top (or remove the mushrooms from the skewers, if desired, and place over the purée), and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Washington Post


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