Researchers in Singapore are developing a new method of “printing” fresh vegetables to make food tastier and more nutritious for patients with swallowing difficulties.

Researchers at Nanyang University of Technology, Singapore (NTU Singapore), Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) have developed a new way to create “food ink” from fresh and frozen vegetables that preserve their nutritional properties and tastes better than all existing methods.

Edible ink is usually made from rubbed products in liquid or semi-solid form, then 3D printed by extrusion and assembled layer by layer.

Mashed food is usually served to patients suffering from problems with swallowing – dysphagia. To make food more visually appetizing, healthcare professionals used silicone molds to shape the puree. It takes a lot of work and time.

For such purposes, you can use, for example, 3D printing of food products. However, dehydrated foods and freeze-dried powders are used in the preparation of food with the desired shape and texture to be created easily and quickly. Hydrocolloids (HA) are used to stabilize the ink. High hydrocarbon concentrations usually alter the taste, texture, and aroma of printed food, making it unappetizing for dysphagia patients. This can lead to decreased food intake and malnutrition among patients.

To solve this problem, the research team studied various combinations of fresh and frozen vegetables.

Not only have they been able to better preserve the nutritional properties of printed food, but they also made it more delicious. The new method of preparing food colors should lead to an increase in food consumption by patients, which will have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. In addition, the experts found that vegetables can be broadly divided into three categories, each requiring a different hydrocolloid treatment to be printable. For example, garden peas, carrots, and bok-choy were selected as representatives in each category: no hydrocolloid, the need for one type of HA and two types of HA, respectively.