Beans on toast: The UK should switch to broad bean bread, researchers say

Britain should switch to eating broad bean bread, researchers said, as it would be more sustainable and provide essential nutrients more easily.

The use of flour made from broad beans – or fava beans – may represent one of the biggest changes to UK food in a generation, according to scientists at the University of Reading.

Professor Julie Lovegrove, who is leading the research, said she believed the bean could appeal to UK consumers as a “grain on toast”, while improving the nutritional quality of bread and reducing environmental impact.

“We had to think laterally: What do most people eat and how can we improve their nutrition without having to change their diet? The obvious answer is bread,” she said.

“Ninety-six percent of people in the UK eat bread, and 90 percent of it is white bread, which in most cases contains soybeans. We’ve already done some experiments and found that bean flour can replace imported soy flour and some wheat flour. Wheat, which is low in nutrients. Not only can we grow beans here, but we can also produce and test bread enriched with bean grains, with improved nutritional quality.”

The project is backed by £2m of government funding and brings together researchers, farmers and policy makers to encourage British consumers to eat more broad beans, which at the moment mostly go into animal feed.

The researchers will also find ways to improve the sustainability and nutritional quality of beans grown in the UK, including by breeding high-yielding varieties and working with farmers to encourage them to convert wheat-producing lands to beans.

Beans in particular are high in protein, fiber and iron, nutrients that can be low in UK diets, but most people are reluctant to use them because they are inexperienced in cooking and eating them.

The researchers will also provide the foods made from the beans they produce to the university’s student residence halls and catering outlets on campus, where they will ask students to rate the products.

Matt Tippett, who runs the university’s catering service and is involved in the research programme, said: “Students will be asked to rate products made or enriched with bean grains, such as bread, flatbread and hummus.

“They will be asked questions about how full they feel, for how long and how often they want to eat foods. It is hoped that beans will improve satiety, as well as provide enhanced nutritional benefits in products that are fun to eat.”

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