New market opportunity for pulses
The health benefits of pulses – lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas – have been proven over and over again. Now, new research out of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Guelph Research and Development Centre in Ontario is looking at ways to improve the nutritional properties of food ingredients made from pulses, specifically by manipulating the types of starch found in the pulses.
Qiang Liu and his team in Guelph have been developing new bread recipes that use pulse ingredients, employing different techniques to alter the starch structure of the pulse flours and the interactions between the starch and other ingredients.
Ultimately, the team was able to increase the amount of slowly digestible starch and resistant starch in pulse-based breads. These two types of starch can improve gut health, slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and help stabilize blood sugar levels. By modifying the ingredients made from pulses (like flour), they can be used to improve or increase the nutritional value of common foods.
As an added benefit, people with gluten sensitivities and food intolerances may be able to tolerate breads made with pulse ingredients, extending the potential pulse-based food market. Going forward, Liu and his team are experimenting with pulse ingredients in other foods, including muffins, cookies and pasta.
The timing of this news release landing in my email inbox was especially fitting for several reasons: The February issue of Top Crop Manager West is pulse-focused, and although the year is behind us, 2016 was the International Year of Pulses. But perhaps most fitting is the way this research connects producers, industry and consumers, following Canada’s Agriculture Day, which the industry celebrated on Feb. 16.
Organized by Agriculture More Than Ever, the day was dedicated to gathering together as an industry to showcase our ag pride and create a closer connection with consumers about where food comes from – and the people who produce it.
Although the day has passed, the initiative remains important year-round. As producers, it’s easy to get caught up in your core tasks and not think about what happens after your crop is harvested. But research like Liu’s is part of the grander scheme of agriculture, and your role in growing the crop is another important piece of the puzzle. It’s important to share your involvement in the story and it’s never too late to get started.
When you’re visiting one of the many conferences or trade shows this season, or when you’re chatting with a neighbour in the grocery store about your crop, we encourage you to share your ag story with your fellow producers and consumers.