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Grain Science and Industry

Dr. Yonghui Li

312 Shellenberger Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Lab: 212/213 Shellenberger Hall
Lab phone: 785-532-5470


Developing Better Whole Grain Wheat Products

Whole grains contain nutritious dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Average intakes of whole grain foods are far below the recommended levels. Wheat products are among the most important whole grain foods. Several key issues must be solved to increase whole wheat products availability and consumption: (1) whole wheat flour is susceptible to oxidation and has much shorter shelf-life than refined flour; (2) whole wheat flour dough is much stickier than refined flour dough, which limits its processing efficiency in industrial bakery production; (3) whole wheat products (e.g., bread) are gritty and sandy, and are less attractive to many consumers; and (4) whole wheat bread has shorter shelf-life and stales faster, which further limits consumer acceptance. The goal of this effort is to develop feasible approaches to overcome these challenges and ultimately increase whole grain products availability and consumption.


Sodium Salt Functions and Reductions in Wheat Products

Sodium reduction in foods has become one of the top diet trends, as many studies have confirmed that high sodium consumption leads to various health concerns. Impulsive reduction or removing of sodium salts in formulas results in negative impact on dough processing and product quality, e.g., rheological changes, dough stickiness, lower volume of bread, easier breakage of finished products, shorter shelf-life, etc. There still lacks a fundamental understanding of salt functions in wheat doughs and bakeries, especially molecular-level changes and interactions induced by salt, which is critical in developing new ingredients and strategies to mimic the function and taste of sodium salt. The goal of this research is to investigate the interactions of sodium salt with gluten, carbohydrate, and lipids in wheat doughs and bakeries and develop better strategies to mimic salt functions and sensory.


Functional Protein Hydrolysates as Additional Profit Streams for Grain Ethanol Industries

Over one-third of the U.S. corn and grain sorghum are consumed in the ethanol industry, resulting in nearly 48 million metric tons of low-value DDGS annually. Plant protein hydrolysates are better alternatives to animal proteins as functional food ingredients and bioactive peptides in terms of availability, production cost, and environmental impact. Manipulated conversion of proteins to hydrolysates could result in peptides with excellent functional properties (e.g., solubility, surface active properties, water and fat holding capacity, etc.) and/or bioactivities (e.g., antioxidants, antihypertension, antimicrobial, anticancer, etc.), along with inherent nutritional values. The goal of this research work is to convert cereal grain proteins (e.g., corn, grain sorghum) to higher-value functional protein hydrolysates.


Natural Antioxidants from Lignin

Antioxidants serve vital functions in human foods, pet foods, feeds, and nutraceuticals. It has a multi-billion dollars market, and the size is still increasing. The market is currently dominated by synthetic antioxidant chemicals, mainly BHA, BHT, TBHQ, and propyl gallate. Consumers’ demands for naturally derived antioxidants are increasing, due to safety concerns, clean-label requirements, and health benefits. Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymers (only after cellulose) and is already present in a large variety of foods. Lignins are phenolic polymers and share structural similarities to synthetic antioxidants, which builds the foundation for their potent antioxidant activities. The goal of this effort is to modulate lignin depolymerization pathways and convert lignin to smaller molecules with excellent antioxidant activities.