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LSU neuroscientist develops antioxidant-rich superfood

Inspired by the remedies that had been passed down to his father in his native India, neuroscientist Joseph Francis developed his own interest in the health benefits of certain foods.

As a neuroscientist at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Francis studies how antioxidants found in certain fruits can reduce brain inflammation in people and animals with depression and other health conditions.

The interest led Francis to tinkering with an antioxidant rich drink in his kitchen at home using blueberry powder and some spices. The drink would eventually evolve into a nutrient-rich energy bar. When Francis asked family and colleagues to try his creation, they were impressed, encouraging him to take the product to market.

Through the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, Francis has developed four flavors of his Pranam (a Sanskrit word meaning life-giving energy) Superfoods “antioxidant bars” since December. The bars – which contain quinoa and a mixture of antioxidant-rich fruits and nuts – are already being sold in eight stores in Baton Rouge and seven others elsewhere in Louisiana.

Joseph Francis, left, mixes ingredients for his Pranam Superfoods “antioxidant bars” while talking with LSU AgCenter Food Incubator food scientist Marvin Moncada on Feb. 22, 2019. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Sweetened only with honey, all ingredients used to create the bars are organic, gluten-free and vegan-friendly.

“Every single ingredient that we have added in our Pranam bars is a functional food or a superfood,” Francis explains of his product.

AgCenter food scientist Marvin Moncada helped Francis scale his original recipe’s batch-size up to production scale, and also helped to identify necessary changes to the production process.

“We went through all the ingredients, and finally, we got a good balance of calories, protein and fiber per serving,” Moncada said.

For Francis, bringing Pranam bars to the public is a way to carry on his father’s legacy.

“He taught us a lot,” Francis said. “We grew up helping other people, so that was one of my biggest inspirations.”

Read the full story from LSU here.

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