Impact of thermal processing and storage on the texture, flavor and digestibility of legumes, taking into account consumer perspectives
Nowadays, efforts are being made to design food products capable to enhance health. Worldwide epidemic levels of food-related diseases linked to high blood glucose levels and health conscious consumer have increased the interest in food products providing slow glucose release. Legumes exhibit a remarkably low glycaemic index compared to other carbohydrate-rich foods. With respect to this, structural features and food matrices play a major role in the digestive behavior and nutrient delivery of foods. Macronutrients in plant foods, such as legumes, are enclosed in a tightly packed cytoplasmic environment by natural structural barriers. These cellular structures influence processing and digestion behavior of legumes. In turn, these structural features and changes are modulated by post-harvest storage conditions and processing. However, cell wall encapsulation of nutrients provides a promising physical mechanism to modulate nutrient delivery upon consumption of food products. Thus, using adequate post-harvest storage and processing conditions, these barriers and their process-induced modifications can be used to modulate digestion. Cell wall characteristics will be investigated as a function of post-harvest storage and thermal processing for the effects on cooking quality, textural attributes, microstructure and matrix effects (protein-starch). So far, these findings were predominantly established on common beans as representative for legumes. However, next to common beans, a broad variety of other grain legumes are used for human consumption. Therefore, this research aims to study the influence of post-harvest storage and thermal treatment (on household and industrial level) on in vitro starch and protein digestibility of chickpeas and lentils. This project will contribute to an increased understanding of the role of cell walls and cytoplasmic interactions on in vitro starch and protein digestibility of legumes as a function of post-harvest storage and processing. To investigate whether and how the typical texture and digestion properties of legumes can be modified to increase consumer liking, consumer acceptance and preference levels will be studied. This PhD research is part of the FOODENGINE programme, a Marie Curie Innovative training network (ITN-ETN) funded by the European Commission, focusing on new research approaches to create low-waste options to transform FVL raw materials in high quality food systems.