Dried Plums: Natural Solutions to Improve the Quality, Nutrition, and Safety of Foods for Space Travel 2003-01-2377
Recent discoveries about dried plums have led to the product's consideration as a natural ingredient to address a number of processed food product problems on Earth and in space travel. Dried plums are widely known to be high in naturally occurring fiber (about 7.5%). Less known, is the high percent of naturally occurring sorbitol, a sugar alcohol (about 15%, the highest of any food), a natural humectant; and malic acid (about 2%), a natural flavor potentiator that improves food flavor perception. Dried plums were shown to have the highest total antioxidant power of 22 of the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables. The addition of dried plums (4-5%) in baked goods replaces fat and adds to shelf life through moisture retention and mold inhibition. Dried plums have also been shown to suppress the growth of various pathogens found in meats (about 3% of the raw meat block) including Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Staphylococcus. Dried plums were shown to be effective in reducing oxidative rancidity in pre-cooked sausage products when compared with BHA and BHT. Thus, dried plums can serve as a natural ingredient to prolong the shelf life and improve the safety and eating quality of various bakery and meat products in the difficult environment of space travel. Dried plums have also been shown to improve the indices of bone formation in postmenopausal women. Bone loss following extended periods of weightlessness is an important concern facing astronauts. This growing body of dried plum research continues to underscore the multi-functional benefits food processors can achieve when adding dried plums to a wide range of processed foods prepared for space travel.