Gluten-Free Spirulina Pasta: A Recipe for Success
Updated: Apr 15
Pasta is widely consumed by people all over the world. In the United States alone, almost six billion pounds of pasta is consumed each year (pastafits.org). Developing gluten-free (GF) products presents major challenges for the food industry in terms of palatability (mainly problems with texture), nutritional characteristics, and high prices. Additionally, GF products, such as pasta, can sometimes be nutritionally deficient in dietary fiber, vitamins (B12 and D), and minerals (iron, calcium, and zinc). Despite these challenges, the GF food market continues to grow.
The largest target audience for GF products used to be people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine (celiac.org). Nowadays, the target audience for GF foods reaches beyond that. In 2015, only 9% of US gluten-free consumers followed a GF diet due to celiac disease, while others adopted the diet because it made them feel healthier (12%), or for weight loss (7%).
The purpose of this study was designed to evaluate the technological performance of gluten-free pasta after adding two different spirulina biomasses: Arthrospira (A.) platensis F&M-C256 and A. platensis Ox Nature, obtained by utilizing different drying methods. The GF pasta was then evaluated for its mechanical properties, antioxidant capacity, in vitro digestibility, and sensory qualities (taste, texture, etc.). Why spirulina? Spirulina is a biomass of cyanobacteria, a microalgae. A. platensis is one of three species of spirulina, which contains a vast array of bioactive compounds (such as carotenoids, phycobiliproteins, and phenolic compounds) with known antioxidant capacities, thus having the potential to be used as natural sources of antioxidants. A. platensis is also known for its high levels of protein, as well as γ-linolenic acid, and phycocyanin contents. Evaluating the addition of spirulina in gluten-free pasta is fundamental to understanding its potential benefits as an ingredient source and possibly provide a better nutritional option for gluten-free consumers (Fradinho et al., 2020).
Previous research done by the same group, successfully incorporated spirulina into wheat pasta and cookies. Results from those studies showed that A. platensis biomass “provided a significant structuring effect, in terms of texture, probably due to its high protein content.” For this study, A. platensis F&M-C256 and A. platensis Ox Nature biomasses were separately added to rice pasta dough, replacing rice flour. Due to “technological and sensorial limitations” the range of A. platensis added to the rice pasta doughs was set between 1 and 3% for both biomasses.
The different drying methods applied to the spirulina biomasses had an impact on the bioactive compounds and the in vitro digestibility of the GF pastas. Both biomasses provided a “significant supplementation of phenolic compounds, chlorophylls, and carotenoids to the GF pastas, that resulted in significantly higher antioxidant activity” when compared to the control pasta (no A. platensis added) and the wheat pasta. Texture properties of the GF pastas were not significantly impacted with the addition of A. platensis. Results also indicated that consumers preferred the GF pasta supplemented with 2% A. platensis F&M-C256 biomass.
Study researchers concluded that spirulina (A. platensis) biomass is a suitable ingredient to enhance the nutritional quality of GF pasta, without significantly affecting its cooking and texture quality properties, and had a favorable sensory evaluation (Fradinho et al., 2020).
Read the full study here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211926419306022
Fradinho, P., Niccolai, A., Soares, R., Rodolfi, L., Biondi, N., Tredici, M. R., Sousa, I., & Raymundo, A. (2020). Effect of Arthrospira platensis (spirulina) incorporation on the rheological and bioactive properties of gluten-free fresh pasta. Algal Research, 45, 101743. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2019.101743
“Pasta Facts.” Pasta Fits. Accessed 11 August 2020. https://pastafits.org/pasta-101/pasta-iq/pasta-facts/
“What is Celiac Disease?” Celiac Disease Foundation. Accessed 11 August 2020. https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/