Students develop healthy, corn-based hummus
Updated April 15, 2014
Sometimes a good recipe can be great for the pocketbook. Just ask three NDSU students who developed a tasty, healthy food product that took the $5,000 top prize in the corn category of the recent Innovation Challenge ’14.
The competition highlighted outstanding, innovative work by NDSU students, and was the showcase event of the fifth annual Innovation Week held on campus March 3-7.
The winning project, called “Hum-HealthyPlus,” had a goal to provide nutritional, cost-effective hummus for customers who consume gluten-free products.
Dwight Anderson, a senior majoring in zoology from Hankinson, N.D.; Tyler Lewandowski, a senior majoring in zoology from Foley, Minn.; and Lukshman Ekanayake, a graduate student in cereal science from Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, developed the recipe that primarily uses corn flour and lentils, which are both produced in North Dakota.
“Since all three of us are pursuing careers in the health field we wanted to develop a product that would help combat one of the biggest health issues –obesity – facing our country today,” Anderson said. “It also was very pleasing for me personally to develop a product that used locally grown crops since my father farms in this area and grows corn.”
The team found that coming up with the right combination of ingredients was not an easy process. It took time, effort and a lot of tasting.
“It was really interesting to see how slight ratio changes could make huge differences in the taste and texture of the product,” explained Lewandowski. “Deciding to make it a corn-based product was an epiphany that really worked out for us.”
The team used different types of lentils prepared in a variety of ways, and tried different proportions with corn and flax seed. “There were many times we only tasted the product once before throwing it away and starting over,” Anderson said of the development process. “We finally had a product that tasted good.”
As they worked, the students learned from the experience, which is a major aim of the annual Innovation Challenge.
“The competition gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of all the time and issues that need to be addressed when trying to turn a new idea into a reality,” Lewandowski said.
Supported by the North Dakota Corn Council, the corn track of the Innovation Challenge is intended to give a platform for creative ideas for new corn-based products. This was the second year for the corn track in the competition.
“Consumers today are much more health conscious and gluten-free products are more popular than ever. It’s outstanding to have a team address so many different emerging trends and innovations in one project – gluten-free, healthy and cost effective,” said Chuck Hoge, interim executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park, noting the Corn Council also participates in advisory committee meetings to shape the focus of the Innovation Week events. “All of the hummus ingredients are abundantly found in North Dakota, so their use would stimulate demand in our local economy.”
Meantime, team members hope their efforts will develop into a commercial enterprise, with their recipe eventually reaching consumers.
“It was a challenge, as well as a great opportunity, for us to leverage innovative thinking and experiences into the successful development of healthy and tasty corn-based hummus,” Ekanayake said. “It’s a proud feeling to be in the Bison family and on the winning team of the Innovation Challenge.”
The “Hum-HealthyPlus” team was advised by Dil Thavarajah, assistant professor in the School of Food Systems.