Lentil loaves: The new use for the humble healthy legume

Posted by Cat Woods on 5th November 2018

TRADITIONALLY wheat-based foods such as pastas, bread and other baked goods are getting a makeover thanks to an innovative use of low-grade lentils that would currently be downgraded and used as stockfeed.

With an eye towards developing pasta and snack foods using lentil as a partial or whole alternative protein and flour source, bread made from a mix of lentil and wheat flour is proving to be a rich source of antioxidants, protein and vitamins.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) PhD candidate Drew Portman has developed a lentil loaf in collaboration with Agriculture Victoria, that passes the health and all-important taste test. His goal is that lentil consumption in Australia will vastly increase starting with their innovative loaf.

“In a baking test we’d make 30 loaves,” says Portman. “We’d measure the loaf volume, the crumb softness and chewability and also the crumb colour. We think we’ve found a mix that works well.”

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CSU PhD candidate Mr Drew Portman (pictured), from the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains, is examining how lentil flour can be incorporated into wheat-based foods.


Healthy bread

With quality protein and essential amino acids, plus extra fibre if the lentil shells are included, the result is a loaf of bread with much greater nutritional quality. Considering the rates of obesity and endemic malnutrition especially in poorer communities and whole societies, a nutritious and affordable to produce and buy foodstuff makes sense.

This is part of the partnership between CSU and Agriculture Victoria to develop new products that provide health benefits as well as boosting demand and income for producers. Additionally, changing the attitude of Australian consumers towards the humble lentil may convince the local market to follow the suit of neighbouring countries which prize the Australian lentil.

Presently, the majority – approximately 90 per cent – of lentils produced in Australia are exported to countries where lentils are a daily dietary staple, like India and Pakistan. A dramatic increase in tariffs on Australian pulses to protect local producers in India has only proven the need to build demand and support for local growers within Australia.

The nutrition benefits may go some way to alleviating the chronic health conditions that plague over half of Australians, especially considering the proven insufficient vegetable intake of adults and children. ABS statistics show only between 5 and 7 per cent of adults and children ate sufficient serves of vegetables in 2014-2015.

“Particularly for young people, poor nutrition can affect learning ability and this impacts whole communities,” Mr Portman says.

“We are not immune from this even in Australia. Extruded products from pulses such as lentil pasta and snacks, unlike bread, are inherently stable and relatively easy to make. Such products could provide a readily available, cost-efficient food source that could address such nutritional imbalances easily.”

But will Australian bread lovers embrace loaves made from lentil flour? Portman is hopeful.

“Wheat and lentil breads have a slightly nutty taste and aroma which gets stronger as lentil flour concentration increases,” Mr Portman says.

“It does not have a beany flavour which most people expect it to have. I think that people who wouldn’t be enticed by traditional lentil dishes like dhal would be more accepting of wheat and lentil bread. I am one of those people; the look and the texture of the bread is something that I can relate to on a culinary level. Having lentil flour in the bread is reminiscent to artisan style baking. It’s something special.”

Professor of Food Science at CSU, Chris Blanchard says, “If you look on the supermarket shelves now we have multigrain and wholemeal, and I think this will be a really exciting addition to those products because it adds some additional benefits.”

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