Researcher looks at ways to add pulses, like lentil flakes and flour, to food products to increase consumption and reap health benefits
CESME, Turkey — The key to pulse crops making inroads into North American diets is continued research into their health benefits, says a researcher.
“The current evidence available to us supports a therapeutic relationship between pulse consumption and risk management for a number of diseases and physiological disorders,” said Peter Jones, director of the University of Manitoba’s Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals.
Pulse crops are low in fat and sugar and high in protein and dietary fibre, contain vitamins and minerals and have a host of beneficial non-nutritive compounds.
“We have literally a potpourri of different opportunities to examine health benefits,” he told delegates attending the 2016 Global Pulse Convention.
The goal is to increase consumption of the crops in North America. Only 13 percent of Canadians eat pulses daily, which is blamed on long preparation time and unfamiliarity with how to use them in meals. Jones said incorporating pulse flour and fractions into everyday food products is the best way to increase consumption.
For example, replacing 25 percent of the oats in oatmeal with lentil flakes greatly increases the fibre and protein of the cereal.
There is already plenty of evidence that eating whole pulses is good for you.
A meta-analysis of clinical trials shows that consuming pulses lowers cholesterol, decreases blood pressure, reduces body weight, and lowers blood sugar levels.
Jones said the health benefits are substantial in some cases. Consumption of pulses can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by seven to 11 percent and serum TC levels by four to 10 percent.
The result is an eight to 20 percent reduction in the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Jones is taking pulse research one step further by exploring whether pulse flour and fractions retain those health benefits. The goal is to generate health claims for products containing pulse ingredients.
To date, the research has shown pulse flours and fractions reduce blood glucose and increase satiety.
Jones is also trying to determine the optimal dose and combination of pulse ingredients for food products. For instance, newly published research shows pinto beans and chickpeas are the best pulses for reducing blood sugar levels in pulse snacks.
He is also exploring whether energy release during exercise can be improved by consuming food containing pulse ingredients 60 minutes before exercise.