It Creamy-white in color with a deep brown crust. It has a mild floury taste but with a moreish salty tang. It crisps up nicely in the toaster, and is the perfect accompaniment to butter, jam or hummus.

It’s bread – but not as you know it. Scientists at the University of Reading are exploring ways to make the British diet more nutritious and sustainable, using soy flour and some wheat, also known as faraba or fava beans.

The challenge is recreating the taste of white bread exactly to reach consumers who aren’t attracted to foods marketed for their health benefits.

“We want to make sure that the whole population gets the benefits of this bread, including disadvantaged populations, who often have more challenges in their diet. We are trying to give them healthy food, and hopefully they won’t know the difference,” Professor Julie, who is leading the project Lovegrove says.

“We know what people should eat, but we need to motivate people to change their behavior and this is very challenging. Everyone knows, for example, how to lose weight – you walk a little more and you eat a little less – but to do it Very difficult because we don’t just eat for nutrition, we eat for reward, as a social event. , for comfort. If we can improve the health of food that makes people happy, like bread, they will get the benefit without changing their diet.

Fava 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 fibre, which many British people don’t get enough of, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Bread is made using flour made from broad beans, also known as faba or fava beans. Photo: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

But – Hannibal Lecter reference aside – Sam has a PR problem. Dr Jane Parker, a flavor chemist who works on how bread tastes, said people avoid beans because they taste bitter. “It’s just as good as your typical standard bread—or better,” she says.

He believes this may be unfair prejudice. She did an experiment with her own family: when she presented the bread as fava bean-based, she called it “too beany.” The next day she ate the same bread, and no one noticed that it was not white bread.

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

Fava beans are endemic to the UK because they grow well in temperate climates, and they were a common protein source in the British diet until the Industrial Revolution. But as processed foods, and products from around the world became available, beans fell out of favor.

Professor Donal O’Sullivan, whose expertise in crop science underpins the project, says this could be because beans “get more flavour, they need more flavour” – compared to the enduring popularity of peas, for example. Naturally sweet. Recent generations have been losing the cultural knowledge of growing, cooking and eating beans.

Flowering broadleaf plant.
Fava beans fix nitrogen in the soil, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers, and their flowers attract bees. Photo: Pat Tuson/Alamy

Yet fava beans are something for a moment. They are still widely produced, but are usually exported to the Middle East or used in animal feed. Tesco, which hails them as a “revolutionary crop”, is working with suppliers to roll them out across product ranges and ingredients.

This is partly because fava beans tap into the stability drive. Beans are known as “nitrogen fixers,” meaning 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 good for biodiversity. And most importantly, because they grow well in the UK they contain a lower carbon footprint than imported soybeans.

There are two potential drawbacks that scientists must address: one, the levels of acrylamide, a carcinogen, are not very high; And another that it’s edible for people with favaism, a genetic disease that can cause severe reactions to fava beans.

Over the next three years, the team will extensively test the bread’s nutritional profile, hold focus groups with consumers, and refine the recipe to perfectly replicate the taste — and cost of production — of white breads. The team is working with Waitrose for now, but the aim is to have it stocked in cheaper supermarkets.

O’Sullivan notes that it might surprise people to learn how much research goes into everyday products. “There’s an amazing amount of science and knowledge that goes into getting bread – every time, and in large quantities.”


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