Adding a seaweed extract to junk food could make it healthier without changing the taste, scientists say.
Newcastle University researchers say adding the tasteless extract, called alginate, would increase the fibre content of pies, burgers and cakes.
This, they say, would mean people could still enjoy the foods they like, but eat more healthily.
The research has been published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
High-fibre diets, including foods such as brown bread and fruit and vegetables, have been shown to help reduce the incidence of life threatening illnesses.
Alginate is high in fibre, so it can boost the fibre content of foods.
But it also has other properties and uses. The researchers say it could be used as an anti-obesity treatment, because it forms a "lump" in the stomach and therefore helps you feel full.
Alginate is already in widespread use by the food industry as a gelling agent and to thicken the frothy head of some lagers.
The Newcastle team looked at two brown-coloured seaweeds which are found in the Far East, South America and parts of Norway and Scotland.
The seaweed is processed in the laboratory to produce alginate - a tasteless and odourless off-white coloured powder - that can then be added to food to enhance fibre content.
Professor Jeff Pearson, a member of the research team, said: "We're just not eating enough fibre, yet we need this to keep us healthy.
"The problem is that a lot of people don't enjoy many of the foods that are high in fibre, like fruit and vegetables, yet to consume the recommended daily amount of fibre they would have to eat a lot of these types of foods.
"We believe it's hard to change people's habits and that the most practical solution is to improve the food they do eat.
"With a burger, for example, you would simply remove some of the fat and replace it with the seaweed extract, which is an entirely natural product from a sustainable resource.
"You'd have a healthier burger and it's unlikely to taste any different."
gelling agent : (胶凝剂)
head : (饮料的白泡沫)