Dry Peas, Lentils & Chickpeas as Functional Ingredients

The rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have reached what many healthcare professionals have referred to as epidemic levels. These unhealthy weight-related trends have prompted a surge in consumer demand and regulatory pressure for healthier food alternatives. In the face of these developments, commercial food manufacturers are finding it necessary to pursue new, more healthful products.

Many in the food industry are increasingly turning to the power of pulses as a solution. The dietary significance of pulses dates back almost 10,000 years when their rich nutritional characteristics were central to human health and the very viability of civilization itself. Today, legumes are actually listed twice on the USDA’s dietary guideline for Americans, once each in the protein and vegetable categories, and important features in the much-lauded Mediterranean Diet.

Food scientists are re-discovering the fact that natural legumes like dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas are highly functional ingredients, adding both flavor and robust nutritional benefits to many dishes. Comprised of natural dietary fiber—both soluble and insoluble—as well as resistant starch and high-quality protein, they offer a health profile that is hard to match.

As a result, specialty and commercial bakers and pasta processors, among others, are looking to pulses and their derivatives as a means for meeting consumer demand while securing a portion of a functional food market that is expected to further grow.

In addition to enriching a product’s fiber and protein content, other benefits of incorporating pea and lentil flour include a pleasant light-golden appearance, and positive blending and mixing attributes. Pulses also boast no additives or allergens claims, are non-GMO and cholesterol free, and a low glycemic index, extended shelf life, preserved flavor, and provide simple and clean labeling potential. What is more, precooked flour supplies superb stability, comparable to that of wheat flour, and is lower risk of microbial growth.

The following section is intended to provide the innovative and current application of pulse ingredients thus the topics provided focuses only on ingredients derived from pulses excluding traditional whole and split pulses.

Advantages of Pulse Ingredients

Bakers are interested in pulse flours for a natural, more economical and nutritious alternative to gums. Pea fiber fortifications not only enhances dough yield, they can also modify texture, create a full-bodied mouthfeel, improve uniformity and consistency, and reduce product breakage. Pea fiber’s high water binding capacity, fat absorption, and dough conditioning properties also contribute to making pea fiber perfect for many baked products, especially low-fat or color-sensitive applications.

By increasing water absorption and easily substituting partial or an entire wheat flour in baked foods like cakes, cookies, and muffins, pea flour makes possible the development of products with excellent source of fiber claim. Proprietary processes for producing insoluble pea fiber from the cotyledon are also available. The resulting white powder, which is made up of 70 percent fiber, has emulsifying and gelling properties that make it especially useful when enriching white bakery products, without affecting color or flavor. This results in bakery products with enhanced nutritional value and structure, including improved crispness, loaf volume, and appearance.