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VIDEO: High-protein yellow peas pump up products

Adding yellow pea flour to recognized products like instant noodles can help improve nutritional value

The phrase “eat your peas” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

Researchers in Winnipeg are finding ways to add yellow pea flour to food products consumers are starting to view as unhealthy — such as breads, instant noodles, pasta and breakfast cereal — to give them a healthy kick.

With funding from Pulse Canada and the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Council, the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) has taken on the challenge.

“The whole purpose of the project is to take a look at using pulse ingredients as a very nutritious way to improve food products that are under pressure right now in the food industry,” said Heather Hill, project manager for pulse flour milling and food applications at Cigi. “So we are looking at using yellow pea flour to improve the protein, the fibre, micronutrients and even the glycemic response of different food products.”

Building on four years of previous Cigi research, Hill is now working to refine milling methods and find ways to increase the nutritional value of foods like instant noodles, extruded snacks and breakfast cereal. One goal is to replace carbohydrates with protein.

“Here in Canada we are seeing there is not really a lot of consumption of yellow peas, which is unfortunate, because they are such a healthy crop,” said Hill. “Protein is really important to consumers, especially when looking at things like breakfast cereals, so we’re incorporating yellow pea flour and yellow pea semolina into breakfast cereal formulations — this is really helping to boost up that protein content and protein really makes you feel full throughout the day, so it’s really important to get that nutrition and that nutrient into your food product early in the morning.”

By adding 60 per cent yellow pea flour to a “Corn Pop”-style breakfast cereal, researchers at Cigi have created a product with nearly 16 per cent protein. The average breakfast cereal only has about 3.5 per cent protein.

Hill said they are now working to fine-tune taste, texture, size, colour and aerosol structure in the cereal.

“We were really interested to look at how even the milling process might affect some of the quality attributes of the breakfast cereal,” she said, explaining that they’ve found treating yellow peas with heat prior to milling helps reduce the “pea taste” in the final product.

As well, some products have an improved texture with the use of yellow pea semolina.

“For the instant noodle products that we’re working on right now, what we’re taking a look at is trying to understand how different flour ingredients and different particle sizes can affect the quality attributes of those new products,” Hill said. “We’re also taking a look at adjusting flavour and processing conditions of those instant noodles to make the best products possible.”

Instant noodles made with raw pea flour, as opposed to those made from the flour of heat-treated yellow peas, had a stronger flavour and more orange colour, she added. Deep frying the instant noodles also helps diminish pea flavours in the products, which contain about 20 per cent yellow pea flour.

While products are still some time away from commercialization, the plan is to have enough protein in them to meet label claim requirements in the United States and Canada — about five grams of protein per 30-gram serving.

“We’re looking forward to optimizing this further and taking it to the next level,” Hill said.

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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