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Zahra Saghafi

Arrell Scholar, Food Science

Zahra is pursuing her PhD under the supervision of Drs. Iris Joye and Maria Corradini in the Food Science department. Zahra received her Master’s of Food Science and Technology from Tabriz University, and her Bachelor’s of Food Science and Technology from Shahid Beheshti University. The focus of her project is to understand the underlying mechanisms in plant-based milk alternatives’ stability so products that closely resemble their animal counterpart can be effectively developed.

For many reasons, plant-based milk alternatives have become a popular choice for consumers. However, there is certainly room for improvement. Plant-based milk alternatives are designed to have attributes akin to cow’s milk, so they can be used in similar applications. However, plant-based milk alternatives exhibit challenges in three major areas, including technical functionality, sensory profile, and nutritional value. Differences in these areas have been identified by the industry and consumers as unacceptable, and some of these have been identified as reasons holding back consumer adoption of these products.

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“The animal-based diet is under debate because of huge environmental and climate impact, water use, land use and greenhouse emissions. As a result, people are being encouraged to consume plant-based food products. The stability and palatability of plant-based beverages are complex aspects that need multidimensional knowledge of the structure. This knowledge will help us to choose ingredients and modification processes targeting quality and stability in plant based milk alternatives.”

Research Interests and Future Goals

Zahra’s research is two fold; analysis and comparison of characteristics of commercial plant-based milk to bovine milk: similarities and differences at different length scales, and production and characterization of model emulsion systems to identify complex relationships that lead to stable milk-like emulsions. Both these efforts will aid in the ultimate goal of elucidating structure-function relations in plant-based milk alternatives to rationally develop a fully functional milk alternative.

Why become an Arrell Scholar?

Arrell Food Institute was a clear choice for Zahra. She recognized that the University of Guelph has one of the oldest and greatest food science departments filled with exceptional researchers and faculty. AFI presents the opportunity to learn from and work with leaders in the food industry.

Zahra Saghafi’s scholarly publications