Lentils studied as key ingredient to making bread healthier

Functional Grains Centre PhD candidate Drew Portman is researching the use of lentils to make a healthier bread than types using traditional flours.

Portman’s research, carried out with Agriculture Victoria, is investigating how lentil flour can be incorporated into wheat-based foods, such as bread, pasta or snacks.

“Lentils are widely consumed within Indian subcontinent and that’s where the bulk of the product grown in Australia is exported,” said Portman.

“Although lentils are gaining popularity as a food source in western diets, wheat is the staple grain used for manufacturing food products.

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“That means many of us are missing out on the nutritional benefits of lentils as they’re a great source of protein and the essential amino acids,” he said.

Pulse Australia and AgriFutures Australia reports that the Australian lentil industry produces on average between 400 and 600 tonnes of lentils per year, most of which is exported.

Lentil production in Australia has expanded from less than 1500 hectares in 1994 to more than 270,000 hectares.

The research at the Agriculture Victoria Grains Innovation Park, in Horsham involves testing the rheological and baking properties such as loaf volume and crumb structure but also examining the nutritional and chemical properties for potential health benefits of the final product.

“My research so far has shown that blending lentil and wheat flour improved the nutritional quality of bread.

“Optimising the blending ratio limited the deleterious effect on rheological properties resulting in acceptable loaf volume and crumb structure,” said Portman.

“Using a lentil and wheat flour mix in bread has the potential to make a product that most of us eat every day more nutritious.

“We hope this will also provide a higher-value market for lentils that are split or damaged during processing and currently sold as stock feed,” he said.

Portman’s research is supervised by Functional Grains Centre director professor Chris Blanchard,  Dr Joe Panozzo from Agriculture Victoria, professor John Mawson from Plant and Food Research New Zealand and Dr Mani Naiker from The Australian Catholic University.