Meet Mahnoor Ayub, Research Fellow in the Food Processing and Nutrition research group at INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory. The focal point of her research includes the development of oleogels to be used in ice creams with enhanced health benefits. Her main objectives include researching novel ingredients that could replace or reduce fat content in ice creams with health benefits.
Mahnoor is an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Scholar where she holds a triple Master degree in Food Innovation and Product Design (FIPDes) from 3 countries including France, Ireland and Italy.
Can you tell us a bit about your path, your main area of work, and the importance of your work?
Being a big-time foodie, food always fascinated me since my childhood. I was always amazed at how food and nutrition affect us in all stages of our lives. Given a choice, I opted for a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition as it fascinated me tremendously to study the science behind food how food is processed in the bodies, its relation to health and diseases and food processing in the industry. Therefore, I specialized in Nutrition and Dietetics where I learnt in-depth the relationship between food and nutrients with life and health.
After my bachelor’s, I worked as a nutritionist where I realised that it’s very hard for anyone to follow a strict diet plan for a long time and to always eat healthily. There, I developed a huge interest to develop healthy and sustainable food products that could be readily available to people on a commercial level. Therefore, to broaden my horizons, I was fortunate enough to win an Erasmus Mundus Master’s scholarship in “Food Innovation and Product Design” where I could actually experience the real essence of food systems while working on industrial and science-driven culinary and research-based projects in a multi-cultural work environment. I specialised in “Healthy Food Design” at the University of Naples (Italy) where I learned to develop healthy and innovative food products from scratch to commercialisation.
Currently, I am working as a `Product Development Food Scientist` at INL where my main area of work is the development of healthy and innovative food products. This innovative project involves the use of novel and functional ingredients like phytosterols, fibres, vitamins and proteins to be added to the ice cream to bring functional properties and health benefits.
There are many people who are health conscious or people with health issues that cannot enjoy simple things in life like enjoying ice cream, therefore, with the development of food products that are healthier than conventional ice cream, we can bring a difference to the table. With growing consumer interest and consciousness in food-related issues, it’s very important to introduce healthy alternatives in the market to meet consumers’ needs and make products that are sustainable for the planet.
Why did you decide to work for the development of functional ice creams with enhanced health benefits?
Ice cream is everyone´s favourite, including mine. When I read the project description, it instantly grasped my attention to work for ice creams. And why not, ice cream is a fascinating and delicious food product but, it also brings guilty pleasure to many of us. The idea of thinking outside of the box to use functional ingredients to bring nutritional and health benefits was a big take for me, especially to work on a product that is novel and not currently available in the market. After studying more about INL and the partner Ice cream Company, I became really interested in the project which would give me an opportunity to work in the industrial and research side simultaneously.
Even now, when I tell people in simple language (not in scientific language), that I am working on the development of healthy ice creams, I could simply see the joy on their faces just by listening to the words “ice cream”. This project will bring something new to the food market and people with health issues can also enjoy “ice cream” in a healthy way.
If you weren’t a Researcher, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough question. I have been interested in many things but I if was not researcher, I would have been an entrepreneur. From time to time, I think of many business ideas that revolve around food and sometimes, some other non-edible products as well. That’s a plan for the future, which eventually will be executed, hopefully in the near future. But, I guess, even for that, I need to be a good researcher, to research the market and to work on the product. So, this research part would stick with me even if I am doing something else.