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New research from the University of Copenhagen Department of Food Science has suggested that fava beans offer a better plant-based protein alternative to the “environmentally taxing soybean”.
As part of its study to find an alternative to soy, the researchers tested various crops to discover which one offered the greatest potential as a protein powder and could be grown locally. Results showed that fava beans ‘outperformed’ lentils, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.
In its report, the university explained how it has found a new way to make a concentrated protein powder using fava beans which is a far more climate-friendly alternative.
Using a method known as ‘wet fractionation’, the researchers succeeded in concentrating fava bean protein and removing substances that would otherwise inhibit the digestion of the protein. As a result, the fava bean proteins can be more readily absorbed when consumed.
“Wet fractionation is accomplished by milling beans into a flour, and then adding water and blending the mixture into a soup. Thereafter, it becomes easier for us to sort out the less beneficial substances and produce an optimised product,” said Iben Lykke Petersen, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science.
Petersen added: “Our results demonstrate that this method significantly increases protein content. Furthermore, through our tests, we can see that this protein is nearly as readily digested as when we break down protein from animal products, such as meat and eggs.”
The research considers fava beans better suited for climate consideration as they can be cultivated locally in Denmark unlike soybeans which are primarily grown in the US and South America and then exported.
Peterson also highlights soybean’s negative environmental impact as a result of deforestation, which has consequences for wildlife and CO2 emissions, and the fact that they are genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.
According to the study, fava beans also compete with soy and other plant-based protein alternatives in terms of colour, taste and texture.
“Manufacturers prefer a product that is tasteless, has a neutral colour and a firm texture. Fava beans check each of these boxes, unlike peas, which often have a very bitter aftertaste,” added Petersen.
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