66 Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech - vol. 30(2) March/April 2019 NATURAL FUNCTIONAL INGREDIENTS HERNÁNDEZ-CUBERO LISSETTE C.*, OSTOVAR SAMAN, SARTOR SONJA *Corresponding author JatroSolutions GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany FUNCTIONAL COMPONENTS OF CHUTA Many scientific findings reveal effective impacts of the functional components of different foods on human health and well-being (5). For instance, a diet with low amount of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease, whereas minerals play different roles in the human body, such as zinc having a positive impact in the immune system and being essential for children’s growth (4, 6). Various health benefits can also be associated with the composition of chuta and will be further discussed below. Protein and essential amino acids Proteins are made of different amino acids and play a vital role in nutrition, for example by boosting the health of bones, heart and blood vessels (7). Furthermore, essential amino acids are necessary in human nutrition because they cannot be naturally synthesized by the body (8). In the case of chuta, its protein contents are higher than any other nut, with the exception of peanuts (1). However, peanuts (as well as soybeans) are leguminous plants, and legumes are generally rich in protein (9). Moreover, certain essential amino acids are of interest in chuta. For example, in a study among selected crops (i.e. peanut, hazelnut, soybean and corn), chuta had the highest contents of valine, and after soybean, it showed the second highest contents of other essential amino acids, those being methionine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine and tryptophan (10). In addition, chuta has a lower lysine to arginine ratio (0.31-0.34) as compared to the soy protein structure (0.58-1.0) (3, 11). This low ratio decreases the risk of strokes and coronary artery disease, and reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood (3). Unsaturated fatty acids Fats contain fatty acids and are an important energy source for the human body. Along with other types of crops, nuts are one of the richest sources of vegetable fats (12). Similar to other nuts (ranging from 44 to 75% fat) (1), chuta has a high fat content, consisting of up to 60%. Also, chuta is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which have favourable effects on blood lipids and may decrease cholesterol levels (1, 3, 11, 13). The fat composition of chuta comprises about 80% of unsaturated fatty acids and like other nuts and plant oils, it is INTRODUCTION Chuta ® is a registered trademark by the company JatroSolutions and it is grown from edible varieties of Jatropha curcas L. developed by the same company. The plant is a drought- resilient perennial shrub that grows in tropical and subtropical regions. Whereas the non-edible J. curcas is mostly known for its uses in biofuel production or for regenerating degraded lands in rural regions, the edible variety, from here on called chuta, holds great potential for the food industry. Nuts are known as nutrient- rich and high-energy snacks with health-promoting properties. According to several studies, different types of nuts such as walnuts and peanuts reduce the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases (1). Additionally, there is some evidence on positive effects on blood pressure and cancer prevention (1). While many findings about tree nuts and peanuts have been discussed in scientific literature as well as in media coverage, the chuta nut and its nutritional characteristics are hardly known. Native to the Mexican Veracruz region, the edible J. curcas has been historically consumed for centuries by an indigenous group called Totonac (2). Usually, they de-shell and roast the nuts and use them to prepare traditional dishes like tamales, tacos and pipián (2). The nut has its own special crunchy flavour which can be compared to pine nuts or sunflower seeds. A novel food application for the European market was submitted by the German company JatroSolutions and is currently being assessed by the corresponding European Authorities. Consequently, thanks to its unique nutritional composition, chuta could soon join the ranks of superfoods. The commercialisation of roasted chuta as snack or ingredient for other food preparations appears to be of particular interest. GENERAL NUTRITIONAL FACTS As shown in table 1, chuta contains all major macronutrients important for human nutrition (3). Chuta is characterised by its remarkable protein content: 100 g of roasted chuta contain up to 26 g of protein, while most other nuts such as walnuts, cashew nuts or hazelnuts have significantly lower protein contents (4, table 1). Moreover, chuta contains only 1,8 % sugar and less than 0,01 % sodium. The nutritional benefits and functional components of Chuta nuts Consumers are progressively focusing on foods offering health- promoting characteristics. Over the past few years, nut consumption and the need for plant proteins have increased. This is hardly surprising, since various studies and clinical trials have revealed the health advantages of regular nut intake. So far, chuta nuts and their functional components are unknown to most food experts and consumers. However, this tasty food innovation holds great potential for the food industry as it is particularly rich in proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, and minerals and has low contents of carbs, sodium and sugar. This article provides an insight into the nutritional benefits and functional components of chuta. ABSTRACT KEYWORDS: Chuta nuts, high-protein nut, functional components, superfood, unsaturated fatty acids, natural functional ingredients. Table 1. Comparison of nutritional contents in 100 g of Chuta ® nuts, peanuts and tree nuts # Chuta ® values are given for roasted kernels. *Adapted from King et al. 2008. Ϯ Tree nut values expressed as the mean for almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.