Nano Foods 101

This new technology has been in the news for the past few months but has been used for a number of years. We’re going to fill you in on all the need-to-know facts.
145236844

145236844

Very healthy dietary

Photo by: Rudyanto Wijaya

Rudyanto Wijaya

Imagine eating fat-free versions of your favorite comfort foods -- macaroni and cheese, chocolate pudding, French fries -- that are just as tasty as the full-fat counterparts. Sound good? That's just one way nanotechonology is being used to manipulate the foods we eat.  But how does it work? And most importantly: Are the products safe to eat?  We've got the scoop on this emerging technology.

What Is It?

This new technology has been in the news for the past few months, but has been used for a number of years. Nanotechnology is a science where substances are manipulated in a teeny tiny (a.k.a. nano) scale. Food can be manipulated many ways:  scientists can make salt taste saltier, or change how foods are digested.

What Are the Health Effects?

Britain’s Institute of Food Research (IFR) has found a way to design fat-free and low fat foods so they’re just as satisfying and tasty as their full-fat counterparts. This could help fight heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The technology would manipulate how fat gets digested, making you feel full from eating less.

What’s In the Works?

The global market for nanotechnology was about $140 million in 2006 and is expected to skyrocket to $5.6 billion by 2012. Most of the top food companies are reluctant to discuss their plans probably because they’re scared of the same reaction that greeted genetically modified food in Europe. Kraft claims that they’re keeping their options open to the use of this new technology while Unilever (one of the largest global food companies) is seriously looking into using it in the future.

Is It Safe?

Experts believe that nano foods could be dangerous. These are teeny particles that can make their way into cells and even the brain (a.k.a. nucleus) of the cell. The technology hasn’t been fully developed, and to date there is limited knowledge on the effects it has to the body.

Bottom Line: You’ll be hearing about this new technology as it gains popularity. Approach with caution until more research is available.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

TELL US: Would you try these "manipulated" foods?
Keep Reading

Next Up

Food Truck Customer Etiquette 101

Follow our guide to food truck etiquette to carve your way into the elite class of very polite food truck foodies.

Tea 101

Everything you've ever wanted to know about tea (and tisanes).

Flour 101

Learn what differentiates types of flour and how to choose the one that's best for your desired baking outcome.

Chiles 101

Find 1000s of Food Network's best recipes from top chefs, shows and experts. And watch videos demonstrating recipe prep and cooking techniques.

Vinegar 101

With so many varieties of vinegar available, choosing the right vinegar to compliment your dish can get confusing. These vinegar basics will get your taste buds on track.

Yoga 101

Diet and exercise go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. If bending into yoga poses is your workout of choice, we’ve got tips on the best way to fuel and hydrate.

Cholesterol 101

Good and bad cholesterol information is confusing. Changing your diet and exercising regularly can help improve your cholesterol. Get tips from Food Network.

Pizza 101

Ditch delivery pizza and check out Food Network's roundup of basic, non-traditional and sweet pizza recipes.

Milk 101

If you’ve scanned the milk container at breakfast time, you’ll notice lots of terms on the carton. Ever wondered why milk is “homogenized” and “pasteurized” and why the heck is vitamin D added? We’ll iron out these terms and explain why they’re on your milk container.