Pulses as Nature’s Gift for Precision Food and Precision Nutrition

By Jamuna Prakash, Gordon Bacon and Laurette Dube

By - Website

Pulses as Nature’s Gift for Precision Food and Precision Nutrition

Recent developments in “omics” technologies have facilitated an advancement of food and health research that has created the burgeoning new fields of precision food and precision nutrition, i.e., the tailoring of food and diet to specific individual biological predispositions that impact health and diseases. Beyond personalized interventions in matters of food choice and dietary behaviors, this opens immense opportunities for better targeted nutritious food for different markets and population segments. From scientific, social, and commercial perspectives, no other topic has garnered as much interest as have diets, dietary ingredients and foods that promote health both on an individual basis and for achieving population-scale solutions to dietrelated diseases. The ability to identify person-specific benefits of particular diets enriched in nutrients and bioactives is now possible through access to readily accessible genomic information processed with cutting-edge bioinformatic tools. We suggest in this article that pulses may be nature’s gift to fuel the commercial and societal success of precision food and precision nutrition.

Pulses are an important component of South East Asian dietaries and contribute particularly towards protein intake of predominantly vegetarian population. They are rich sources of protein providing around 20-25g protein per 100g and equally contribute towards vitamins and minerals intake. They complement the protein quality of cereals by providing much needed limiting amino acids. Whole pulses are notably rich in dietary fiber too [20,24]. Some of the pulses have anti-nutritional factors such as enzyme inhibitors, mineral binders or flatulence factors, most of which are inactivated or removed during processing. For example, soya bean has a very high content of trypsin inhibitors, which are deactivated by heat treatment, hence soya beans should be heat processed before consumption.

Pulses, with their rich diversity of bioactive compounds and nutrients, can become key ingredients for precision food and better targeted value addition. Apart from traditional uses, they can be used for improving the nutritional quality of staple foods or for formulating novel products. We review below multiple uses of pulses experimented upon in Dr. Prakash’s laboratories with reference to scientific publication to facilitate integration into nascent practice of precision food and precision nutrition.

Pulses are essential not only for their nutritional contribution to diets but also for the variety of flavours they provide. They lend themselves for conversion to innumerable dish forms on account of unique functional properties thus providing avenues for multiple uses [4]. Processing changes the sensory profile of legumes considerably [10]. Pulses can be pre-processed using simple techniques such as soaking, germination, milling, grinding and fermentation. Traditional processing methods include puffing, roasting, steaming, boiling and frying. Thermal treatment or cooking improves the digestibility of pulses and destroys anti-nutritional factors [9,12]. Pre-processing treatments like germination and fermentation are known to specifically impart many health benefits by way of enhancing bioavailability of nutrients from legumes. Germination has been shown to improve starch and protein digestibility and mineral bioavailability in pulses as it brings down anti-nutritional factors and breaks down complex carbohydrates. During germination the enzyme phytase reduces phytic acid content, which is a powerful mineral binder [6,8,11].

There are many varieties of pulses grown all over the world which are used either as whole or in dehusked form. Whole grains are milled to remove the outer covering. The nutritional value of whole and dehusked grains differ widely as whole grains are comparatively healthier than dehulled grains on account of higher antioxidant constituents and dietary fibre. However, they also need a longer time for cooking. Pulses are generally used in cooked form and the process of cooking improves their textural and flavour quality [10]. Pulses are used as base ingredients in many dishes used with meals, as breakfast items, snacks or in sweet preparations. They can be used for all age groups with appropriate processing.

In conclusion, it is often suggested that pulses are nature’s nutritious gift to human kind. Their ability to contribute to the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations around the world is not powered by technology, be it through different pre-processing and processing techniques can further improve their nutritional quality or by a precise alignment of their biological characteristics with that of those who consumer them.


Findings References

Legumes are rich in protein and can add value to cereal-based products. ‘Chapathi’, the traditional Indian flat bread, is sometimes enriched with chick pea flour. Our studies have shown that legume flours (whole, dehusked or germinated), if added to wheat flour in staple products (i.e. chapathi), would increase the protein content of flour and add more minerals, vitamins and fiber. This would provide satiety as well as has a lower glycemic index, making it of particular relevance for diabetics.

Defatted soya flour was used for formulating high protein, high fiber fermented bread, and resulted in a low glycemic index product with high sensory acceptability.

Pulses can be incorporated in supplementary foods for infants (germinated and dehusked form). This process would reduce the fiber content of legumes, and retain the goodness of germinated grains, providing high protein, easily digestible food and low flatulence. [7]

Legumes are used traditionally in many fermented products in India. Instant ‘Dosai’ mixes (a pancake like dish eaten as breakfast or snack) were developed using germinated legumes along with rice flour or wheat semolina and were found to have high acceptability and shelf stability. [13]

Chickpea flour was used for developing healthy low fat baked crackers with and without yeast and they were found to have a high sensory acceptability. [1]

Cereal and legume based deep fried snacks are delicious but unhealthy due to their high fat content. Our studies have shown that soya flour can reduce the fat absorption in deep fried products. Soya incorporation could lower 25- 30% of oil uptake in many Indian traditional deep fried snacks. [21,22,23]

A majority of baked products contain refined flour, which is low in nutrition (dietary fiber). Okara, the soya fiber obtained after production of soya milk as residue, was used for partially replacing the refined wheat flour in buns. This improved the nutritional quality of buns tremendously and products were acceptable for their sensory attributes. [2,3]

In an experiment, whole green gram and chickpea were germinated in mineral fortified soak water and analyzed for mineral uptake and bioaccessibility. Results showed that mineral content of germinated grains increased significantly. A part of mineral (iron or zinc) was retained on dehusking such grains and nearly 30% of the added mineral fortificants were bioaccessible. [16,17,19]

Legumes possess antioxidant properties. A study on the effect of storage on antioxidant properties of legume and green curry mixes, demonstrated that even on prolonged storage, considerable activity was retained in such processed ready to eat mixes. [14,15,18]



1. Bhavya SN Prakash J (2012) Effect of composite flour addition on quality of low fat baked snacks. Second One-Day National Conference on Recent Trends in Food Science & Nutrition Research. Tumkur University. Bangalore. 30th Oct.
2. Bhavya SN Prakash J (2012) Nutritional and organoleptic quality of buns fortified with natural ingredients. International KNS-IUNS Workshop on Capacity and Leadership Development in Nutritional Sciences. Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. 14-16th Nov.
3. Bhavya SN Prakash J (2012) Nutritional and sensory quality of buns enriched with soy fiber. National Carbohydrate conference [Carbo-XXVII] Association of Carbohydrates Chemists & Technologies. CFTRI, Mysore. 13-15th Dec.
4. Devisetti R Divya PJ Prakash J (2016) Functional properties of dehulled red gram and lentil sourced from organic and nonorganic source. Research and Reviews: J Food Dairy Technol. 5(2). 1-7.
5. Dhinda F Lakshmi JA Prakash J Indrani D (2012) Effect of ingredients on rheological, nutritional and quality characteristics of high protein, high fiber and low carbohydrate bread. Food Bioprocess Technol. 5, 2998- 3006.
6. Ghavidel RA Prakash J (2007) The impact of germination and dehulling on nutrients, antinutrients, in vitro iron and calcium bioavailability and in vitro starch and protein digestibility of some legume seeds. LWT, Food Science Technol. 40 (7): 1292-1299. 7. Ghavidel RA Prakash J (2010) Composite weaning mixes: formulation and evaluation of quality characteristics. Food Sci Tech Res. 16 (1): 65-70.
8. Ghavidel RA Prakash J (2011) Assessment of changes in phytase, amylase and protease activities of some legume seeds during germination. Agro Food Industry Hi-Tech (Italy). 22(3): 45-47.
9. Khatoon N Prakash J (2004) Nutritional quality of microwave cooked and pressure cooked legumes. Inter J Food Sci Nutr. 55 (6): 441-448.
10. Khatoon N Prakash J (2005) Cooking quality and sensory profile of microwave and pressure cooked legumes. Ind J Nutr Dietet. 42 (1): 13-21.
11. Khatoon N Prakash J (2006) Nutrient retention in microwave cooked germinated legumes. Food Chem. 97 (1): 115-121.
12. Khatoon N Prakash J (2006) Nutritive value and sensory profile of microwave and pressure cooked decorticated legumes (Dhals). J Food Process Preser. 30 (3): 299-313.
13. Nagaprabha P Prakash J (2009) Development and acceptability of green gram based instant ‘dosai’ mix. J Food Sci Technol. 46 (5): 418-422.
14. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2013) Effects of processing and digestive enzymes on retention, bioaccessibility and antioxidant activity of bioactive components in food mixes based on legumes and green leaves. Food Biosci. 4 : 21-30.
15. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2015) Antioxidant components and their in vitro bioaccessibility in processed and stored chick pea and amaranth greens mix. Croatian J Food Technol, Biotechnol Nutr. 10 (1-2): 45-50.
16. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2016). Nutritional properties of green gram germinated in mineral fortified soak water: I. Effect of dehulling on total and bioaccessible nutrients and bioactive components. J Food Sci Technol. 54 (4): 871-879.
17. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2016). Nutritional properties of green gram germinated in mineral fortified soak water: II. Effect of cooking on total and bioaccessible nutrients and bioactive components. J Food Sci Technol. 54 (4): 880-889.
18. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2017) Effect of Simulated in vitro digestion on antioxidant activity of processed Cicer arietinum and Amaranthus caudatus greens. Nutr Food Toxicol. 1(2): 53-62.
19. Oghbaei M Prakash J (2017) Effect of digestive enzymes treatment on antioxidant properties of germinated green gram fortified with minerals. Cereal Chem. 94 (2): 284-290.
20. Prakash J (2009) Legumes – nutritional quality and utilization in Indian dietaries. 19th International Congress of Nutrition, IUNS, Bangkok, Thailand, 4-9th Oct.
21. Puyed SS Prakash J (2007) Sensory and keeping quality of a ready-to-eat snack incorporated with pre-treated soy flour. Foods. 1 (2):354-360. 22.
22. Puyed SS Prakash J (2009) Fat uptake, shelf stability and sensory quality of rice crackers produced using soy and selected additives. J Foodservice. 20: 189-199.
23. Puyed SS Begum K Saraswathi G Prakash J (2010) Shelf stability and sensory attributes of a deep-fried product incorporated with pre-treated soy flour. J Food Process Preser. 34 (3), 439-459.
24. Ramesh D. Devisetti R Prakash J (2016) Nutritional, functional and antioxidant properties of selected organic and conventionally grown legumes. Inter J Nutr Agric Res. 3(2): 106-116.



Jamuna Prakash 
Dr. Jamuna Prakash is world renowned food scientist and professor. Her work bears on compositional analysis of foods, product formulation, sensory evaluation, nutrient digestibility and bioavailability, functional properties of foods, antioxidant components, antioxidant properties of foods, effects of processing on nutrients and antioxidant components, utilization of food bio-waste, value addition of traditional recipes by novel means, food fortification. She examine food characteristics in relation to their impact on food behavior and nutrition status of population.

Gordon Bacon
Gordon Bacon is CEO for Pulse Canada and is also CEO of the Canadian Special Crops Association, an organization that represents processors, exporters and brokers of all pulses and special crops. Pulse Canada is the national industry association that represents growers, processors and exporters of Canadian pulses. The association’s mandate is to contribute to the profitability of the Canadian pulse industry by delivering innovative solutions that improve efficiencies and increase the value of pulse production, processing and marketing. When successful, Pulse Canada’s efforts will ensure that different market segments recognize pulses as healthy, sustainable and functional food products, leading to increased worldwide demand for Canadian pulses. Direction and funding for Pulse Canada is provided by Alberta Pulse Growers, Saskatchewan pulse Growers, the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Ontario Bean Growers, and the Canadian Special Crops Association. Before joining Pulse Canada 19 years ago, Gordon was Director of Market Development at the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). He has also served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of State, Grains and Oilseeds in Ottawa; and in various roles with federal and provincial departments of agriculture.

Laurette Dubé 
Dr. Dubé is a Full Professor and holds the James McGill Chair of consumer and lifestyle psychology and marketing at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University, Canada. Her research interest bears on the study of affects and behavioural economic processes underlying consumption and lifestyle behaviour and how such knowledge can inspire more effective health and marketing communications in both real-life and technology-supported media. She is the Founding Chair and Scientific Director of the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics. The MCCHE was created to foster partnerships among scientists and decision-makers from all sectors of society to encourage a more ambitious notion of what can be done for more effective health management and novel pathways for social and business innovation.

Pulses as Nature’s Gift for Precision Food and Precision Nutrition
Pulses as Nature’s Gift for Precision Food and Precision Nutrition
Pulses as Nature’s Gift for Precision Food and Precision Nutrition


Disclaimer: The opinions or views expressed in this publication are those of the authors or quoted persons. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Global Pulse Confederation or its members.