Public Release: 

'Chemistry and Flavor of Hispanic Foods' -- one-day symposium, March 15

American Chemical Society

SAN DIEGO, March 15 -- Maté, queso blanco and frijoles: these are just a few examples of the booming growth of Hispanic cuisine, which is becoming increasingly commonplace in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the country. The trend is fueled by this country's fast-growing Hispanic population and its rich and diverse culinary heritage. While consumers have enjoyed treats such as tortilla chips and margaritas for many years, scientists are now beginning to discover that Hispanic foods have unique chemistries that offer unexpected health benefits, novel flavors, textures and cooking properties. More than a dozen research papers will be presented during the one-day symposium, "Chemistry and Flavor of Hispanic Foods," on Tuesday, March 15, at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The symposium begins at 8:20 a.m. at the Horton Grand, Regal C. Selected highlights include:

Hispanic-style cheeses offer unique varieties, tastes -- It's "hasta la vista" to mozzarella and cheddar and hello to Hispanic-style cheese, now one of the fastest-growing food segments in the U.S. From hard-textured and strongly flavored Cotija (pronounced koh-TEE-hah) to soft and crumbly Queso Blanco (KAY-so BLAHN-ko), these cheeses offer unique flavors and textures that are far different from typical American-style cheeses. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have recently conducted the first comprehensive chemical analysis of Hispanic-style cheeses, a development which could lead to improved quality and marketability of these cheeses as they make their way into mainstream cuisine. (AGFD 90, Tuesday, March 15, 8:50 a.m.)**

Healthier beans on the horizon -- While it's well-known that beans are good for you, chemists in Mexico say they have figured out ways to make them even healthier. Called frijoles (free-HO-lays) in Spanish, beans are a dietary staple in many Hispanic homes. Two different research groups in Mexico identified South American bean varieties that have higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants than common American bean varieties. The study could lead to the production of healthier varieties of beans, which previous studies have suggested may fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes. (AGFD 94, Tuesday, March 15, 10:45 a.m., and AGFD 95, 11:10 a.m.)*

Cheese-flavored tortilla chips are number one snack food, survey finds -- Snack food consumption is on an upswing, with a mind-boggling array of new and innovative choices introduced to consumers in the past few years. Researchers at Oklahoma State University and Cornell University surveyed the snack preferences of 1200 consumers from the U.S. and Latin America and found that tortilla chips, particularly the cheese -flavored kind, are the number one snack food. While many studies have surveyed consumer snack preferences, the current study is believed to be one of the first consumer surveys to include Hispanic-style snack foods. The study could lead to new food products that target the snack and flavor preferences of both regions, say the researchers, who are also developing healthier snacks with more fiber, fruit and antioxidants. (AGFD 109, Tuesday, March 15, 1:30 p.m.)*

Maté tea: Energy booster, cancer fighter -- Widely consumed in South America and growing in popularity in the U.S., maté (mah-TAY) tea is made from the dried leaves of an herbal plant (Ilex paraguariensis) and known for its energy-boosting properties. Now researchers at the University of Illinois may have found another reason to sip the potent brew (aka Yerba maté), considered Argentina's national drink. They analyzed 25 different types of maté and found that the tea contains higher levels of antioxidants than green tea and, based on cell studies, may help prevent oral cancer. A paper on this research appears in the current print issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed ACS journal. (AGFD 112, Tuesday, March 15, 2:45 p.m.)*

The chemistry of margaritas -- Originally from Mexico, margaritas are a fixture of the American bar scene. A group of chemists now wants to unlock the secrets of the smooth, refreshing flavor of this popular cocktail. Researchers at International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. in New Jersey conducted a chemical analysis of the flavor components in a classic Margarita cocktail (containing tequila, orange liqueur and lime) and found that each of its ingredients contains a few hundred flavor components, indicating that its simple flavor belies its chemical complexity. They hope to use this study to improve the taste of margaritas and produce new food products based on its flavor. (AGFD 115, Tuesday, March 15, 4:15 p.m.)

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

-- Mark T. Sampson

*Investigator can conduct interviews in Spanish.
** Spanish-speaking translator available. For more details, call the contact person listed at the top of this release.


Chemistry of Hispanic dairy products

Michael H. Tunick and Diane L. Van Hekken, Dairy Processing & Products Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, Fax: 215-233-6795,, Phone: 215-233-6454

The composition and interactions among proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates are responsible for the structure, flavor, and functionality of dairy foods. Hispanic-style cheeses and other dairy products are increasing in popularity in the U.S., prompting research into the chemical basis for their characteristics. Variations in the composition, pH, microbial activity, microstructure, and rheology of Hispanic-style cheeses arise from differences in processing parameters, which allow the properties of the cheese to range from hard and strongly flavored (Cotija), through semi-hard and meltable (Asadero and Queso Quesadilla), to soft and crumbly (Panela, Queso Blanco, and Queso Fresco). Unlike typical cheeses, Hispanic-style cheeses contain a significant amount of whey and are often meant to be consumed fresh. Other dairy products which are prominent in Hispanic cuisine include creams, fruit yogurts, and drinkable yogurts, and the properties of these foods are also due to the interactions between their components. The diverse attributes of these products can be defined by the science underlying them.

Briefly explain in lay language what you have done, why it is significant and what are its implications (particularly to the general public)

We have analyzed the texture, composition, microbial structure, and bacterial activity of common Mexican cheeses, and similar cheeses made in the U.S. No dangerous bacteria were detected in any sample. The properties of the cheeses were related to their manufacturing procedures. Consumer acceptance of these products will rely on the chemistry behind their characteristics.

How new is this work and how does it differ from that of others who may be doing similar research?
This is the first research on the properties of Hispanic cheeses as they relate to each other on a chemical basis. Other researchers have dealt with these cheeses, but from the aspect of foodborne illnesses.

Special Instructions/feedback:
Michael H. Tunick
Dairy Processing & Products Research Unit
USDA-ARS, Eastern Regional Research Center
600 E. Mermaid Lane
Wyndmoor, PA 19038
Phone Number: 215-233-6454
Fax Number: 215-233-6795
Publishable Email:


Phenolics, flavonoids, and other nutraceuticals in Mexican wild common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

L.G. Espinosa-Alonso1, M.E. Valverde1, F. Guevara-Lara1, O. Paredes-López1, A. Lygin2, and J. Widholm2. (1) Unidad Irapuato, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Km 9.6 Libramiento Norte, Carr. Irapuato-León, P.O. Box 629, Irapuato, Gto, Mexico,, (2) Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) have received attention as nutraceutical foods. Seed coat components may play a role in prevention of chronic diseases, showing antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic activities. Wild beans show more biodiversity than cultivated beans and more background in their pigmentation. The objective was to quantify the total phenolic compounds, anthocyanins and condensed tannins in 62 Mexican wild bean materials, analyzing flavonoids and phenolic acids by HPLC. Total phenolics levels in wild materials were higher than those of cultivated beans. Condensed tannins ranged between 9.2 and 35.7 mg catechin equivalents/g flour; yellow and brown seeds showed higher contents. Main phenolic acids were ferullic, sinapic, coumaric, vanillic, and p-hydroxibenzoic acid. Main flavonoids were kaempherol and quercetin; traces of daidzein, genistein and coumestrol were sometimes present. Wild bean materials were identified as important sources of phenolics; information useful for their conservation and for improvement of cultivated beans with important nutraceuticals.

Briefly explain in lay language what you have done, why it is significant and what are its implications (particularly to the general public)

Common beans, also known as navy, pinto or red kidney beans, are the second most important food in Mexico (after corn). They provide protein, vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber and other essential nutrients. Recently common beans have received attention as nutraceutical foods, that is, they provide benefits to human health besides their nutritional message. Among the plant chemical compounds (also known as phytochemicals) responsible for the nutraceutical value of common beans are phenolics and flavonoids, some of which provide characteristic colors to the seeds. Those phytochemicals are known to play roles in the prevention of chronic diseases, showing antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic activities. Among the various types of bean genetic materials, wild beans show more biodiversity than cultivated beans. Thus, wild beans may be an important source of nutrients and nutraceutical compounds to improve cultivated beans. The objective of our investigation was to quantify several types of phenolics and flavonoids in 62 Mexican wild bean materials. We found that levels of phenolics in wild materials, particularly in yellow and brown-seeded ones, were generally higher than those in cultivated beans. Also, particular phenolic and flavonoid phytochemicals were identified and quantified for the first time in specific wild common bean genetic materials. These materials can next be used as important sources of nutraceuticals for the improvement of cultivated beans, thus adding health-promoting functionality to the diet. The identification of such valuable common bean materials will also promote their conservation and rational utilization.

How new is this work and how does it differ from that of others who may be doing similar research?

This research is very original because wild common bean genetic materials have never been analyzed before for nutraceutical phytochemicals as those mentioned. As a matter of fact, neither cultivated common bean varieties have been systematically subjected to these analyses. Thus, much of the nutritional and most of the nutraceutical value, diversity and wealth in common beans is still to be unveiled and rationally utilized.

Special Instructions/feedback:
F. Guevara-Lara
Unidad Irapuato
Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Km 9.6 Libramiento Norte
Carr. Irapuato-León, P.O. Box 629
Irapuato, Gto,


Chemical parameters and biological activity of phenolic compounds in Phaseolus vulgaris and Phaseolus coccineous beans

Guadalupe Loarca-Piña1, S.H. Guzmán-Maldonado2, J. Acosta-Gallegos2, M.A. Alvarez-Muñoz1, and S. Garcia-Delgado1. (1) Centro Universitario, University of Querétaro, Cerro de las Campanas S/N, 76010 Querétaro, Querétaro, Mexico,, (2) Biotechnology and Legume Laboratorie, National Research Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock (INIFAP)

The potential health benefits of consuming beans as nutraceuticals have largely been overlooked. The seed coat of dry beans is rich in phenolic compounds, which are effective antimutagens and anticarcinogens. The objective was to compare the phenolic concentration, antioxidant and antimutagenic activities of polyphenols from the seed coat of Phaseolus vulgaris and Phaseolus coccineous black cultivars. The antioxidant potential was evaluated in vitro. The antimutagenic activity of phenolic compounds against aflatoxin B1 was tested using a microsuspension assay. The methanolic extracts from seed coat exhibited antioxidant activity that correlated with phenolic content. P. coccineus had the highest concentration of phenolic compounds (840 mg eq. (+) catechin/g). P. vulgaris showed higher values of anthocyanins than P. coccineus (61 and 9 mg eq. (+)cyanidin-3-glucoside/kg, respectively). The antimutagenicity of phenolic compounds from P. coccineus was higher than P. vulgaris. Due to their chemical composition, these beans could be used as ingredients in nutraceuticals and functional foods.


AGFD 109 Hispanic snack foods in the U.S. and Latin America

Patricia Rayas Duarte1, Corey Stone1, Diana A. Freytez1, Ana L. Romero-Baranzini1, and Steve J. Mulvaney2. (1) Food & Agricultural Products Research & Technology Center, Oklahoma State University, Rm 148 FAPC, Stillwater, OK 74078, Fax: 405-744-6313,, Phone: 405-744-6468, (2) Dept. of Food Science, Cornell University

Snack foods are one of the fastest growing segments in the food market with estimated sales of more than $43 billion in the Americas. Canada and the U.S. represent one of the largest markets with sales of more than $22 billion in 2002. Mexico, Central and South America are also important markets with sales of $20.9 billion in 2001. Hispanic flavors in snack foods are among the most popular and represent an opportunity for continued growth. All savory corn chips comprise the largest salty snack segment, with nacho cheese listed as the preferred flavor in all snacks. Spicy hot snack flavors, e.g. Jalapeno and Chipotle pepper, continue to grow but new flavors can offer more variety. To better understand trends and consumer preferences in this area, a research survey was conducted in nine metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. in the categories of savory/salty, sweet, dairy and confectionery snacks. Selected results from that survey will be presented. Trends in snack products and flavors from five Latin American regions will also be included.


AGFD 112
Ethnic teas and their bioactive components

Elvira de Mejia1, Amanda Bergschneider2, and Sonia Chandra2. (1) Dept. Food Science & Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, 1201 W. Gregory Dr, Urbana, IL 61801, Fax: 217-265-0925,, Phone: 217-244-3196, (2) Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois

Polyphenols are naturally-occurring metabolites in tea that have been associated with several health benefits. The objective of this study was to determine the phenolic content, antioxidant capacity and human anti-topoisomerase I and II activities of herbal teas ardisia (Ardisia compressa), mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L). Total polyphenols were measured by Folin-Ciocalteau assay, using chlorogenic (CH), gallic (GA) and protocatechuic acids as standards. HPLC, MS and NMR were used to characterize phenolic compounds. Total polyphenols in various ardisia species ranged from 20-86 mg GA/g and revealed the presence of epicatechin gallate, proanthocyanidin dimers, kaempferol, naringenin isomer and ardisin derivatives. Mate tea products contained caffeoyl derivatives (204-364 mg eq. CH/g), significantly different depending on origin (p < 0.001). Protocatechuic acid (33-60 mg/g) and anthocyanins were present in roselle tea products. Mate tea presented the highest antioxidant capacity (13.1 nmol TE/?g). There was correlation between polyphenol content, antioxidant capacity and human topoisomerase inhibition.


AGFD 115
Flavor of the classic Margarita cocktail

Sanja Eri, Neil C. Da Costa, and Laurence Trinnaman, Research and Development, International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc, 1515 State Highway 36, Union Beach, NJ 07735, Fax: 732 335 2350,, Phone: 732 335 2726

The classic Margarita cocktail is made with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. One of the things that this cocktail owes its popularity to is its smooth, pleasant and refreshing flavor. Each of the main ingredients makes its own contribution to the overall perception of this unique flavor. One way to investigate the flavor of a classic Margarita cocktail is to look at the flavor profiles of its ingredients. Tequila, orange and lime were analyzed as part of the Generessence® program at International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. Their flavor compositions were determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Three sample preparation methods were used in the analysis: liquid/liquid extraction, dynamic headspace and stir bar sorptive extraction (TwisterTM). The flavor profiles were assessed by combining the results obtained by different sample preparation methods. Each of the main ingredients has been shown to contain few hundred flavor components, indicating that a classic Margarita cocktail flavor is a very complex blend of several hundreds of flavor compounds.

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