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There was an in-plant interview session by ITN at the Food Processing Unit at Institute of Post-Harvest Technology division of National Aquatic Resources Research and Development regarding to seaweed based value added food products and their benefits to people. The fresh seaweed species and their potential uses and benefits were introduced to the viewers by Mrs. P. S. Jayasinghe (Senior Scientist - NARA). The developed products were showcased to the viewers with little food technology insight and their superiority in nutritional quality against supplementary products which are available in markets was discussed by Mr. S. Thiruchenduran (Scientist - NARA). Finally the session concluded with a practical seaweed jelly making session elaborately exhibited by Mr. M. R. Perera.
The following is the content summary of the program

One of the leading ongoing researches at National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency is the development of value-added products from different seaweed species grown as well as collected around the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Various activities of the new product development process including innovation, development, testing and evaluation are conducted at the Aquatic Food Processing Plant of the institute of post-harvest technology division.

There are nearly 20 species of seaweeds are found as economically important around the world. Among them, three species of seaweeds namely Glacilariasp, Ulva sp and Sargassum sp are considered to be of economic importance in Sri Lanka. The coastal areas where different species of seaweeds are found are Glacilaria app at Trincomalee and Kalpitiya, Ulva sp at Beruwela and Matara and Sargassum at Beruwela and Koggala.

Glacilariasp is used as a major source of agar-agar a carbohydrate polymer made of agarose and agaropectins. The economical importance of agar-agar is mainly derived from the ability to make stable hydrogels at room temperature. The functional attributes of the hydrogels produced using agar-agar have enacted many novel food product developments like seaweed jam, seaweed jelly, seaweed yogurt, seaweed jujubes and seaweed soup and seaweed porridge.

Ulvasp is utilized for its greenish leafy green appearance and commonly consumed as raw salad. An instant reconstitutable dehydrated salad mix was developed by the scientists at NARA. The product has a good shelf life with better sensory properties

Sargassumsp valued for its higher protein content among the seaweeds found in Sri Lanka. It is also used as a foliage for its good nutrient composition. A liquid bio-fertilizer cum growth enhancer using Sargassumsp is being developed at the Institute of Post-Harvest Technology of NARA.

As a food source products developed from seaweeds have many advantages over the products prepared with other gelling agents like gelatin or pectin. One good advantage over gelatins is that seaweeds are plant derived gelatin alternates which can be used in vegetarian diet products. The higher protein content and rich mineral profile including iodine, sodium, magnesium and calcium give the edge of nutritional benefits over gelatin or pectin. The identified health benefits of seaweeds boost its status as a functional ingredient in food products. Seaweeds are found to be good for managing non-communicable diseases through food since they have a very high content of fiber. As a bulking agent in the stool, it reduces the problems of digestion and related inflammatory conditions raising from high starch diets. Along with the fiber, phytochemicals found in seaweeds also found to be reducing the severity of type two diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory conditions and other chronic lifestyle-related diseases.

Preparation of Seaweed Jelly
50g of dried Glacilariasp was soaked in 500ml of water for 20 minutes and then boiled for 30 minutes. The boiled liquor was filtered through a muslin cloth and the filtrate was collected in a bowl. Sugar, flavor and food coloring were added as required. The mixture was thoroughly mixed while hot and left to set at room temperature. The jelly was refrigerated before serving.




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