Beans, peas may serve as flour alternatives

by Jeff Gelski
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Advancements in the milling of beans and peas into flour may allow grain-based foods manufacturers to create products with marketing claims for fiber, protein or gluten-free. The challenge comes in figuring how to mix in the bean flour or pea flour with flour from cereal grains such as wheat.

For example, replacing 10% of the cereal grain flour with pea flour should have no significant sensory effect on the baked food item, said David Hahn, Ph.D., director of technical services and business development for the Northern Crops Institute in Fargo, N.D. Replacing more than 10% may require formulation changes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 back up the value of adding beans and peas to products. Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein and fiber, according to the guidelines, and they provide such nutrients as iron, zinc, potassium and folate.

Consumer interest in protein levels of packaged foods apparently is rising. A headline for an article in the March 27 issue of The Wall Street Journal read, “When the Box Says ‘Protein,’ Shoppers say ‘I’ll Take It.’”

According to research released by Mintel in January, the United States ranks as the largest market for protein claims. The United States accounted for 19% of the global new product launches with protein claims in 2012, beating out India, at 9%, and the United Kingdom, at 7%. Americans seek protein to aid in satiety and weight management and to boost muscle recovery and build muscle after a workout, said Nirvana Chapman, global food science trend analyst at Mintel.

Adding bean flour or pea flour to grain-based foods not only will increase protein levels but also will improve protein balance in regard to amino acid profiles, Dr. Hahn said. Beans and peas have high
levels of an amino acid called lysine. Cereal grains have lower levels of lysine but higher levels of amino acids called cysteine and methionine.

Fiber remains a marketing opportunity, too. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey, 62% of respondents said they considered whether or not a product contained fiber when making decisions about buying a product. Fiber ranked ahead of such other subjects as protein (56%) and calcium (46%). Fiber trailed only calories (71%) and whole grains (67%).

Keep an eye on volume

Dr. Hahn said when pea flour replaces more than 10% of flour from cereal grain, a baked food may experience a loss of volume because of changes in the protein network. To add a higher percentage of pea flour while keeping volume the same, bakers may need to add vital wheat gluten and strengthen the protein network.

The extra amount of protein and fiber in the flour will require an increase in water content, Dr. Hahn said. Bakers should keep the temperature down to a certain level to avoid oxidizing fats, which may cause off-flavors.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., includes cooked bean powder in its VegeFull line of bean ingredients.

“Protein and fiber may play a role in slowing digestion, which can provide a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time,” said Cheryl Borders, technical service in edible beans for ADM Research. “Bean products are also inherently low in caloric content and sodium as well as total and saturated fat.”

A starting point for replacing cereal grain flour with cooked bean powder would be 10% to 30%, Ms. Borders said. Bakers would need to adjust liquids as necessary.

“The VegeFull products are easy to use, and they work well with other ingredients such as cereal grains, starches and other proteins, but the increased protein and fiber in the bean powders usually requires increasing the liquid in the formulation, and the viscosity of the dough may be affected,” she said. “Depending upon the process of the product, one approach may be to add the bean powder later in the process or creaming the bean powder with the fat component to coat the particles and slow water absorption.”

The Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), Winnipeg, Man., has milled yellow peas and red lentils into flour, which then has replaced flour from cereal grains in applications.

“Percentage definitely varies according to application and on the purpose of adding them as ingredients,” said Lindsay Bourré, technical specialist, pulses, with the Cigi. “If there is a specific health or nutrition target, that will dictate the amount of pea or lentil flour to add, or for example, if you were trying to achieve a gluten-free product.”

For pasta and some baked products such as pitas and tortillas, the Cigi has replaced up to 30% of wheat flour without negatively affecting sensory properties.

“In the batter and coating work that we have been doing, we are able to totally replace the wheat flour that was being used, and in extruded snacks we are able to use 100% pea and/or lentil flours,” Ms. Bourré said.

Consider roller milling

The Cigi uses roller milling with red lentils and yellow peas. Roller milling produces flour with a uniform particle size that has a smaller range of distribution when compared to the results obtained with hammer milling or stone milling, Ms. Bourré said.

“An important note regarding roller milling is that because the hulls of peas and lentils are easily removed from the cotyledon, the gradual process of roller milling to remove fiber is not necessary for pulses,” she said. “Additionally, the roller mill produces quite a bit of fine flour from the yellow peas and red lentils, which can potentially clog the dust collectors in the mill. Therefore, different filters may be needed to prevent the dust collectors from clogging, which would ultimately affect the milling process.”

In the future, the Cigi plans to look at the possibility of processing pulses before milling, which might help to reduce flavor components that become an issue, she said. Solving the flavor components issue might allow formulators to replace more wheat flour.

According to a 2012 presentation from Pulse Canada, Winnipeg, lentil flour may replace 25% of durum semolina flour in pasta, which will increase protein levels 25% and fiber levels 100%. Peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are all examples of pulses, said Tanya Der, manager, Food Innovation & Marketing, for Pulse Canada.

Pea flour or bean flour may add needed protein and fiber to gluten-free pasta, Dr. Hahn said.

“You can start to bring the nutritional value of those gluten-free products up a little bit,” he said.

According to The NPD Group, Chicago, 30% of U.S. adults in January claimed to cut down or avoid gluten completely.

In gluten-free baked foods, the bean flour or pea flour may be blended with rice flour, Dr. Hahn said. Yellow peas and white beans are fairly neutral in color and thus may keep gluten-free pasta from turning too dark, Dr. Hahn said.

Ms. Borders said, “Bean products are gluten-free and are suitable for celiacs and individuals with gluten sensitivity. In gluten-free products, the bean powders may be combined with other cereal flours and starches such as rice, tapioca, potato and corn.”

When using non-wheat proteins in gluten-free products, gums and gum/starch blends often are used to provide structure, she said.

Snack opportunities

A higher percentage of beans and peas may replace cereal grains in other food items, Dr. Hahn said. Volume is not as much of a concern with flat breads. The expansion of some snack products helps keep them tender, which may allow for a higher inclusion of beans and peas.

Roquette offers Nutralys pea ingredients. Dry yellow peas undergo a wet process treatment that ensures pea isolates with 85% to 90% protein, according to the company. Applications include snacks and cereals, gluten-free foods, meat products and vegetarian food, sports nutrition and dairy foods.

Burcon NutraScience Corp., Vancouver, B.C., recently introduced Peazazz pea ingredients. A proprietary patent-pending process delivers a purified product with protein concentration of more than 90% on a moisture-free basis. The protein is soluble and transparent in beverage applications with a pH below 4.0.

In addition to low pH systems, Peazazz may be used in a variety of other food applications, including cereal and nutrition bars, baked foods, vegetarian and vegan products, weight management products and gluten-free products.

Burcon NutraScience expects to have commercial-scale market development quantities of Peazazz available later this year. The company is building a Peazazz semi-works plant in Winnipeg that will enable Burcon to provide such quantities.

Burcon NutraScience will promote its Peazazz ingredient at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition July 14-16 in Chicago.

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