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lunes, 18 de octubre 2021
18/10/2021
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Bean Shells, a New Food Alternative

By: Jennifer Restrepo de la Pava - Journalist

The wrapper that protects the bean is considered waste in the production chain of this legume in Colombia. Research at Universidad de Antioquia is exploring the properties of the bean pod, as it has great potential for the manufacture of flour, edible packaging and uses in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

According to Ministry of Agriculture figures, 114,408 tons of beans were harvested in the country in 2019. A Colombian consumes on average between 3 and 4 kilos of this legume per year. Photo: cargamanto bean in shell, courtesy: PxHeree. 

This misnamed organic waste is more than a shell. To protect and preserve the fruit, plants develop defense mechanisms in their envelopes that turn them into a mine of nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber. However, the properties that make this organic waste a sustainable raw material for food keep going to waste along with the shell.

Taking advantage of the beneficial raw materials hidden in this waste, giving them an added value, reducing the environmental impact and the costs of disposal were the reasons that in 2019 led the undergraduate student of food engineering, Marcela Martínez Castaño, to explore the properties of the flour of the cargamanto bean pod —Phaseoulos vulgaris— as a supply for the food industry.

The coating of this vegetable contains antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients that, when included in an edible product, enable a more nutritious diet. During the multipurpose study, the proteins, fat, moisture and some physicochemical and functional properties of the pod were evaluated. They were obtained by testing two types of drying methods for the peel.

"This is a research aspect of nutritional interest. The product has high antioxidant potential. The antioxidants can be extracted for use in the food industry and for cosmetic or pharmaceutical purposes", stated Marcela Martínez.

The doctor in food technology and quality, José del Carmen Contreras Calderón, one of the professors who participated in the research, said that raw materials are highly sought-after —in this case, because of the antioxidants— since they prevent degenerative and cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, cancerous tumors. They also capture and neutralize free radicals —harmful molecules— and delay cellular aging.

"It has more water and oil holding capacity than wheat flour. We could think of partial replacements for wheat flour to lower costs. We found low-fat and high-fiber content. Insoluble fiber prevails. It is good for constipation problems and digestive health. We also found ash and minerals. Although we did not measure them separately, there are important contents and carbohydrates and starches that could be used for making jams or products that require a certain texture. There are very important properties that can be further investigated", added Contreras Calderón.

Healthy Bakery Products

The high carbohydrate content and the lack of raw materials rich in fiber are some of the problems of bread production in the country today, according to scientists. This motivated researchers from the Drug, Cosmetics and Food Stability Group, to which Marcela now belongs as a master's degree student, to use applied research to obtain a sustainable raw material for the manufacture of healthier bakery products that bring variety to Colombian gastronomy.

"Wheat flour is subjected to processes that eliminate the fibrous layers, which are used as residues for the preparation of fodder for animal feed. In this case, they eat better than we do", emphasized Martínez Castaño. 

In this search for a recipe for healthier bakery products, the cargamanto bean pod is the main ingredient. The new flour made from the husk of this popular legume has more fiber and antioxidants, less fat and fewer carbohydrates than traditional wheat flour. Moreover, it is gluten-free.

"When we talk about healthy bakery products, we have to leave traditional Colombian baking schemes aside. Many health problems arise from low daily fiber consumption, so we saw the possibility of making bread with high fiber content", said Cecilia Gallardo, PhD in chemical sciences.  

The evaluation of proteins, fat and moisture in the bean flour pod allowed us to find properties that make it useful for the manufacture of make-up and pharmaceutical products, besides the manufacture of some edible packaging. The antioxidants found in the pod, for example, could be extracted for use in cosmetics.

Oven-Ready Flour?

Although the pod looks promising, for the scientists of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical and Food Sciences of Universidad de Antioquia, it is a challenge to replace wheat flour since generating a baked product means achieving a defined structure that includes the texture, porosity crunchy crust of bread. To achieve this, further research is required. Likewise, in order to obtain flour with characteristics that are similar to those of traditional wheat flour, it is necessary to explore sensory characteristics such as flavor, smell and color.

Given this new opportunity to take advantage of residues and turn them into raw materials, another subject to research is the use of residual agrochemicals that could be contained in the husks. This makes it necessary to look for environmentally friendly pest-control mechanisms that do not affect the pod or the grower's pocket.

Although Act 1990 of 2019 was established in the country to "create a policy against food loss and waste, take measures in this regard and create a system for measuring and controlling losses", there is still much to be done to use organic by-products such as cargamanto bean husks to generate raw materials and food products. 

 
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