Tuning pulses racing: Reading scholars master broad bean bread Bread

IIt is creamy white in color with a deep brown rind. It has a mild sweet taste but with a more salty aftertaste. They crunch nicely in the toaster, and are the perfect accompaniment to butter, jam, or hummus.

This is bread – but not as you know it. Scientists at the University of Reading are finding ways to make British diets more nutritious and sustainable by going undercover, replacing soy flour and some wheat with broad beans – also known as broad beans or fava beans.

The challenge is to accurately recreate the flavor of white bread to reach consumers who wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to foods marketed for their health benefits.

We want to ensure that all populations receive the benefits of this bread, including disadvantaged populations, who often face more challenges in their diet. “We try to give them healthy food, and hope they don’t know the difference,” says Professor Julie Lovegrove, who leads the project.

“We know what people should eat, but we need to motivate people to change their behavior and that’s a big challenge. Everyone knows, for example, how to lose weight – you move a little more and eat a little less – but it’s very difficult to do that because we don’t eat.” “Only for nutrition. We eat for reward, as a social event, for convenience. If we can improve the health of food that people are happy to eat like bread, they will get the benefit without having to change their diet.”

Medames bean bread is more nutritious because it contains more digestible protein, which increases feelings of fullness and can help people avoid overeating, as well as more iron and fiber which many Brits do not consume enough, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Bread is made using flour made from fava beans, also known as fava beans or fava beans. Photograph: Martin Goodwin/The Guardian

But – Hannibal Lecter references aside – the Beans has a PR problem. Dr. Jane Parker, a flavor chemist who works on how bread tastes, said people avoid beans because they think they have a bitter flavor. “It should taste as good as your regular loaf—or better,” she says.

She believes this may be an unfair prejudice. She conducted an experiment with her family: when she presented the bread as bean-based, she was told it was “too small”. The next day I served the same loaf and no one noticed it wasn’t white bread.

Supermarkets are unable to deceive their customers in the same way, so the researchers are instead working with the British Nutrition Foundation to change people’s negative perception of beans and pulses. The project is supported by £2m of government research funding as part of a wider program to make UK food systems healthier and more sustainable.

Beans are endemic to the United Kingdom because they grow best in temperate climates, and were a common source of protein in the diets of the British until the Industrial Revolution. But when processed foods and products from around the world began to become available, the bean fell out of favor.

Professor Donal O’Sullivan, whose crop science expertise supports the project, said this is probably because beans are “more of an acquired taste, they need more flavour” – compared to, say, the enduring popularity of peas, which are naturally sweeter. Successive generations lost cultural knowledge of growing, cooking and eating beans.

Broad bean plant flowers.
Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers, and their flowers attract bees. Photo: Pat Towson/Alamy

However, beans are having a moment. It is still widely produced, but is usually exported to the Middle East or used for animal feed. Tesco, which hails it as a “revolutionary crop,” is working with suppliers to roll it out across product and ingredient ranges.

This is partly because the beans benefit from their sustainability drive. Beans are known as “nitrogen fixers,” which means they take nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. Their flowers also attract bees, which is beneficial for biodiversity. Most importantly, because it is so well grown in the UK, it has a lower carbon footprint than imported soybeans.

There are two potential drawbacks that scientists must address: First, the level of acrylamide, which is a carcinogen, is not very high. The second is that it is edible for people with favism, a genetic disease that can cause a severe reaction to the bean.

Over the next three years, the team will test the bread’s nutritional profile extensively, hold focus groups with consumers, and refine the recipe to ensure it perfectly replicates the taste—and cost of producing—of white loaves of bread. The team is working with Waitrose for now, but the goal is to have it stocked in inexpensive supermarkets.

O’Sullivan notes that it might surprise people to know how much research goes into everyday products. “There’s an amazing amount of science and knowledge that goes into getting just the loaf — every time and on a massive scale.”

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