Are legume flours better for us? (2023)

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Are legume flours better for us? (1)


One of our most unhealthy collective eating habits in the West isWe don't have enough fiber in our diet. AA high-fiber diet is associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and early death.

You may be concerned that increasing your fiber intake from whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, means giving up some of your favorite foods. But in recent years manufacturers have introduced higher-fiber alternatives to many of our traditionally low-fiber staples — including pasta, snack foods, breakfast cereals, and energy bars. But are they better than the foods they replace?

It's widely accepted that people should eat more legumes, including legumes like lentils and chickpeas, because we're not getting enough fiber. Legumes can help reduce the risk of certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, because we digest them more slowly than other foodskeeps our blood sugar levels upconsistencies.

"If you eat a potato, your blood sugar rises sharply, but legumes have a much lower glycemic index and a much lower insulin response," says Peter Ellis, professor of carbohydrate biochemistry at King's College London.

Legumes are also high in nutrients and low in fat – but they lack what researchers call ita "complete protein profile".This means that its protein value is lower compared to meat or eggs as they don't contain all the amino acids our body needs. For this reason, experts recommend combining legumes with wheat, for example pasta.

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Another way manufacturers add a fiber boost to pasta is by replacing some of the flour traditionally used — usually wheat flour — with flour made from high-fiber alternatives like lentils, chickpeas, and broad beans.

In 2020, Sophie Saget, researcher at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland,analyzed and compared the nutritional content of pasta made in part from chickpea flourwith traditional dough based on durum wheat flour. She found that chickpea pasta had 1.5 times more protein, 3.2 times more fiber and 8 times more essential fatty acids.

Legumes are a great source of fiber and eating lots of fiber makes you feel full faster - Sophie Saget

According to Saget, eating pasta made from chickpea flour makes it much easier to eat legumes, which she calls "forgotten heroes." It's also a great way to control the amount of food we consume, she adds.

"Legumes are a great source of fiber, and eating lots of fiber makes you feel full faster, so you don't tend to eat more than you need."

But while legume-based pasta appears to be stiff competition for traditional durum wheat pasta, Saget's research says it's unlikely to match whole legumes. This is due to the processing required to turn legumes into pasta.

Finishing isn't always a bad thing; When dry, the nutrients in the legumes wouldn't be very bioavailable, says Ellis — but grinding the legumes into flour changes their structure at the cellular level.

"Even if you eat the legume whole, the cells that contain proteins and nutrients break apart during the cooking process. But legume-based dough takes the processing a step further,” he says, because making flour with legumes requires grinding the dry matter and the sediment. , destroying all cells.

Are legume flours better for us? (2)

Fava bean flour emerged as an alternative to wheat and increased fiber content (Source: Getty Images)

However, research is still lacking on exactly how this changes the nutrient content, adds Ellis, and the exact nutrient profile of a legume-based pasta depends on how the legumes are processed, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

"You're dealing with very complex materials that consist of a large number of different components," he says. "Increasing the percentage of plant-based foods in the diet is a good thing, but it's right to question whether legume-based pasta has long-term beneficial effects."

the taste test

As with any other new food product - especially ones that imitate our favorite foods - the biggest challenge is convincing people with taste and texture. In fact, that's the biggest challenge, says Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading.

"If something tastes too healthy, people don't like to eat it," he says. "Until people like it and don't accept it as a substitute, it's not going to succeed."

It's a challenge to break down prejudices about how something should taste when the product is slightly different - Nick Saltmarsh

And with that in mind, he argues that legume-based pasta "is likely to remain a niche product."

The taste can be influenced by many external factors. For example, knowing that you are eating pasta that defies tradition can spoil the taste buds.But legume flours have been used in traditional Italian pasta since time immemorial., says Nick Saltmarsh, managing director of Hodmedods, which produces and sells legume flour.

When Hodmedods pasta maker Giovanni Carleschi was first tasked with making a legume-based pasta, he was skeptical.

"But once he realized there was real Italian pasta made with bean flour, he wanted to try it," Saltmarsh said.

Are legume flours better for us? (3)

Adding legume flour to products that only use wheat flour could help ease spikes in blood sugar, a study finds (Source: Getty Images)

The end result, which uses 50% all-purpose flour and 50% broad bean flour, tastes different than traditional all-purpose flour — Saltmarsh calls it "distinctive." And having a product that tastes and looks different from its popular counterparts is no easy task.

"It's a challenge to break down prejudices about how something tastes when the product is a little different," says Saltmarsh.

But the product is actually not that different. Not only Italians use legume flour to make pasta - the use is widespread. While legume-based pasta may seem like a new health fad, we've actually been touting the health benefits of legume flour for hundreds of years, says food historian Rebecca Earle.

"People have been preparing dishes from chestnuts and rice flour for thousands of years," she says. "And more recently -- around the 18th century -- people in France were promoting flour made from a variety of ingredients, including lentils and beans, as a healthier alternative to traditional flours, which, like today, were wheat flour."

We now know that high-fiber alternative flours are generally better for us.

One of the reasons all-purpose white flour is the most common flour today is because it has become a lot cheaper over time thanks to the industrial revolution. This is partly due to its popularityHistorical connection with the upper class.

"Wheat doesn't have a high yield, so it was expensive in the Middle Ages," says Earle. "And it makes extra fluffy bread, so it was top quality. That meant that when it became affordable, it was still desirable.”

White wheat flour was also considered more nutritious as it was better for our digestive system. However, we now know that high-fiber alternative flours are generally better for us.

Bringing the past into the present

While pasta made in part from legume flour may make some pasta fans suspicious, lessons may soon be learned about how to make it more populara three-year project on breadmade from field flour.

Julie Lovegrove, Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Reading, has replaced up to 25% of wheat flour with broad bean flour, making it richer in protein, iron, zinc and fiber compared to traditional white bread.

Are legume flours better for us? (4)

Products made from white, processed wheat flour used to be considered more nutritious, but whole wheat flours have come out and are better for us (Source: Getty Images)

"I envision the durum wheat substitute in pasta will have a higher nutrient content and lower GI, similar to our bread substitute," she says.

The Raising the Pulse project is about growing the broad beans and harvesting the ones that are particularly iron-rich and nutrient-dense, drying them, grinding them and then working with bakers to produce the end product – which will be tested on a campus. University.

"We want the bread to be as identical as possible to standard white bread so that people can eat it without changing their eating habits," she says.

The health benefits of adding legume-based pasta to your diet really depend on what you eat, not what you eat.

"Scientists can develop foods that are high in legumes, but if people don't like the taste, it's just an academic exercise," she says. "It would be amazing if legume-enriched bread was the norm, but we need to make sure it's accessible and acceptable to people."

The health benefits of adding legume-based pasta to your diet really depend on what you eat. When it comes to processed plant foods, legume-based pasta is a relatively good choice, says Saget.

"Compared to a legume burger, for example, legume batter is relatively unprocessed," she says.

Despite the lack of research on legume-based pasta, the body of evidence on the health benefits of legumes suggests that replacing legumes and other whole foods with legume-based pasta will not be as beneficial to our health as using it as an alternative to regular wheat pasta .


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