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Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of bioactive compounds and micronutrients. Some of the most abundant are phenols and carotenoids, whose consumption contributes to preventing the occurrence of degenerative diseases. Recent research has shown the potential of non-thermal processing technologies, especially pulsed electric fields (PEF), ultrasounds (US), and high pressure processing (HPP), to trigger the accumulation of bioactive compounds through the induction of a plant stress response. Furthermore, these technologies together with high pressure homogenization (HPH) also cause microstructural changes in both vegetable tissues and plant-based beverages. These modifications could enhance carotenoids, phenolic compounds, vitamins and minerals extractability, and/or bioaccessibility, which is essential to exert their positive effects on health. Nevertheless, information explaining bioaccessibility changes after non-thermal technologies is limited. Therefore, further research on food processing strategies using non-thermal technologies offers prospects to develop plant-based products with enhanced bioaccessibility of their bioactive compounds and micronutrients. In this entry, we attempt to provide updated information regarding the main effects of PEF, HPP, HPH, and US on health-related compounds bioaccessibility from different vegetable matrices and the causes underlying these changes. Additionally, we propose future research on the relationship between the bioaccessibility of bioactive compounds and micronutrients, matrix structure, and non-thermal processing.
PEF, HPP, HPH, and US can cause permeability changes in cell membranes, which is directly connected to microstructural changes in whole matrices and particle size reduction in liquid matrices. Generally, this facilitates the release of carotenoids and phenolic compounds, which improves their bioaccessibility. On the other hand, particle size reduction can also facilitate the formation of a strong fiber network due to more interactions between fragments of cells, which increase the viscosity of the product (juices and purees) and entrap carotenoids avoiding their correct absorption. Little information is available about the effect of viscosity and pectin on phenolic bioaccessibility, but it has been suggested that phenol-fiber interactions play an important role.
The presence of oils in pulps or purees is beneficial to enhance carotenoids bioaccessibility, whereas its effect is still unknown for phenols bioaccessibility. Nonetheless, it has been reported that the combination between PEF or HPP and the presence of lipids could increase their bioaccessibility in liquid matrices. Therefore, the effect of processing on bioaccessibility would depend on the balance between compounds degraded or modified during processing and/or digestion and those that are protected by the matrix.
Structural properties of matrix are one of the most important factors determining bioactive compounds bioaccessibility. Hence, further studies about the effect of these technologies on viscosity, fiber, particle size, pectin properties, and microstructural characteristics would be necessary to develop non-thermal strategies to enhance bioactive compounds bioaccessibility and to understand the main causes of these changes. Finally, future research should also focus on shelf-life, quality-related enzyme activities, and consumer’s acceptance, given that processing may alter the typical flavor of the final product, their quality attributes, or their microbiological stability during storage.