Pulse-based ingredients could help food manufacturers deliver significant nutritional improvements to everything from granola bars to chicken nuggets by ‘stealth’ if formulators knew what to do with them, according to pulse industry body Pulse Canada.
Greener than soy thanks to their ability to lock in nitrogen from the air, non-allergenic, non-GM and packed with fiber, protein, iron, vitamins and folate, pulses are also low in fat and gluten free, said food innovation and marketing manager Tanya Der in a webinar on ingredient applications last week.
But if Canada’s pulse industry wants to cash in, it has to work harder to educate manufacturers about how pulse flours, fibers, starches and proteins work in different food matrices and what might be a useful starting point when firms want to replace a percentage of, say, wheat flour with lentil flour in a given application, she added.
Healthier granola bars, tortillas and pasta
Recent research at the University of Manitoba had shown that replacing half of the oats in a granola bar with pre-cooked flaked lentils could double its fiber, protein, and iron content - and increase folate to 10% of the daily value in a 30g serving - without any loss of sensory qualities, she added.
Meanwhile, replacing up to half of the wheat flour in tortillas with navy, black and pinto bean flour could boost iron, fiber and shelf-life as pulse flours were better at retaining water and reducing surface cracking.
Research by the University of Saskatchewan and the Canadian International Grains Institute showed that replacing 25% of durum wheat flour with lentil flour in pasta could boost fiber by 100% and increase protein from 5.6% to 11.5% DRV per serving (allowing for a ‘good source of protein’ claim).
Batter and breading applications
But some of the most interesting applications work had been conducted at the food development center in Manitoba, which had shown that breaded fish nuggets made with pea starch, flour and fiber instead of wheat flour and corn starch contained 6g of fiber per 125g piece and 15% of the DRV for iron, compared with 2g fiber and 10% iron DRV respectively, she said.
There were also significant technical benefits from replacing corn starch and wheat flour with pea starch and flour in coated meat products.
“In the case of glazed chicken, pea starch and fiber performed so effectively that it allowed for the complete removal of gums, allowing for a cost reduction.”
She added: “Pulse based battered and breaded meat products showed positive end quality results. The cook yield of the coated products improved as well as the batter pick up as the coatings adhered more efficiently to the substrate and the oil absorption decreased when cooking while a crisp and more golden color was achieved.”
Succulence, yield, shelf-life
Using pulse flours as meat binders and extenders would also enable food manufacturers to drive cook yields, boost succulence, reduce fat and increase shelf-life in processed meat products such as ground meat burgers, said Der.
Although using native lentil flour created unacceptable off flavors in some applications, heat-treating the flour resolved the problem, she claimed.
Finally, a four-year project led by the Canadian International Grains Institute that began last year would help show how different milling techniques impacted the functionality of pulse flours, helping miller produce particle sizes optimized for use in specific food applications, she said.