Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, a spice used in curry, has many health benefits. It has anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic properties. Researchers at the National Dairy Institute in India found a way to add the spice to ice cream.
Curcumin supplements are growing in popularity, but it is not used much as a functional food ingredient. This is because of its poor water solubility, extremely low absorption and bioavailability, and tendency to degrade quickly under neutral and alkaline pH conditions.
The researchers found that hydrophobic curcumin can be dissolved to add nutritional value to functional foods if it is nanoencapsulated with sodium caseinate. They turned the bioactives into nanoemulsions by mixing oil and water and stabilizing them with emulsifiers. They used casein to emulsify and encapsulate the curcumin because it can form a thicker interfacial layer around the lipid droplets than whey protein and it can easily be degraded by stomach enzymes. The food industry already frequently uses sodium caseinate, so the researchers could simulate a feasible functional food design.
The researchers tested several oils to dissolve the curcumin and found that MCT-60, a medium chain triglyceride-60, worked the best. They made the ice cream from scratch with skim milk powder, stabilizers, emulsifiers, sugar, milk, and cream. They homogenized and pasteurized and then froze the ice cream.
The researchers did not observe any phase separation after centrifugation. The nanoencapsulation of curcumin with sodium caseinate as an emulsifier was stable at a variety of temperatures, pHs, and ionic strengths. They concluded that ice cream was an ideal food delivery system for a curcumin nanoemulsion. More studies are needed to examine the functional attributes and the ice cream’s use for therapeutic purposes.