Jan 16,  2018

A Novel Protein Ingredient for Your Next Innovation

A Novel Protein Ingredient for Your Next Innovation


These are the pertinent questions in “A Novel Protein Ingredient for Your Next Innovation,” a presentation given by Supaporn Naknukool, Ph.D., Parabel USA Inc., at a 2017 Prepared Foods R&D Seminars.

Naknukool began by explaining what water lentils are, and that they are known by other names (lenteja de agua, lentilles d’eau, khai nam [water eggs] and shobuj shona [green gold]). Free-floating aquatic plants from the Lemnaceae family, these rapidly growing plants have found use as a model system for studies in community ecology, basic plant biology, ecotoxicology and in the production of biopharmaceuticals, she averred. They are also a source of animal feed for agriculture and aquaculture.

In fact, a 1989 FAO report called these versatile plants “…a tiny aquatic plant which has enormous potential for agriculture and the environment.” In Southeast Asia, Naknukool pointed out, water lentils are already a human food resource in traditional/small farmer systems. They have been consumed as a food source by Burmese, Laotians and Northern Thailand people for many generations. Thais refer to water lentils as khai nam or “eggs of the water,” and regard them as a highly nutritious food. Delicious foods prepared with water lentils as an ingredient in Southeast Asia include: water lentil chiffon cake, water lentil curry and water lentil omelets. They also go well as an ingredient in western dishes, such as salads and veggie burgers.

Water Lentils and Health Benefits

Water lentils are found worldwide, yet grow best at temperatures 18-30? C. Optimized growth systems allow for very high growth rates and year-round harvest. Grown under the optimized nutrients, water lentils have an average of 40-45% crude protein on a dry matter basis (DMB). Growth media, water and fertilizer need to be regularly monitored for crop quality and composition, as well as potential contamination from heavy metals, pathogens and other undesirables, Naknukool said.

Water lentils’ actual water footprint is five times lower than for other vegetable proteins and 10-40 times lower than for animal proteins. Cultivation of water lentils emits CO2 that is 27 times less than cattle farming to generate 1kg of fresh product. Water lentil yields 20 tons dry matter per hectare a year (dm/ha/year) and provide almost 10 times as much protein/ha/year as soy beans. They require only two to three weeks from inoculation to reach production.No other crop has this potential.

Water lentils have been recommended as a nutritious food; they are considered a great source of all essential amino acids. Their essential amino acid content is higher than soy, pea, algal and hemp. Water lentils’ branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content is also higher than soy, pea, algae (chlorella) and hemp, while they have a comparable amino acid profile to whey protein.

Naknukool stated that water lentils also are one of the most complete plant-based protein sources, citing their PDCAAS measurements (a measure of amino acid content and protein digestibility) as value of 0.93-089. They are considered a complete protein, meaning it provides required amounts of nine essential amino acids. Water lentils are also rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid, ALA), which are essential for optimal cardiovascular, brain and eye function. Naknukool noted that one serving of water lentils provide 38% of male RDA and 55% of female RDA of omega-3 fatty acids.

This incredibly versatile plant also contains minerals that are essential for proper health, growth and development—including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, molybdenum and boron.

And, to add to their nutrition powerhouse status, they also contain soluble/insoluble dietary fiber at perfect ratio (2:8). Insoluble fiber aides in weight loss (provides satiety); promotes regular bowel movements; and prevents constipation. Soluble fiber promotes gut health; can contribute to diabetes protection; and can contribute to a reduction of blood cholesterol levels (heart health benefit). Another strong point in water lentils’ favor is that they’re a good source of natural antioxidants, pigments, polyphenols, phytosterols and flavonoids (see chart, “Water Lentils: Source of Antioxidants, Pigments, Phytosterols and More”).

Lastly, Naknukool discussed how to have successful applications of water lentil powder in food products. Dispersibility of Lentein Powder, made from water lentils, is excellent and close to whey protein concentrate. Lentein Powder has an outstanding water- and oil-absorption capacity. It is well-dispersed and provides smooth texture in beverage or soup applications. It is an excellent ingredient for label claims, including “good source of protein” and “good source of fiber.”

Together with protein from other sources, Lentein Powder is a suitable protein source in meal replacement drinks or soups. Lentein Powder can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Naknukool took the audience through various applications for Lentein Powder, including those for bakery, pasta and sausage.

In bakery, reformulation with Lentein Powder into gluten-free bakery products can boost fiber content; improve protein quality; provide a higher protein content; and improve essential amino acid content. Recommended usage level is up to 10% and it has a minor impact on water absorption and rheological characteristics. Inclusion levels of >10% would interfere the softness and density of the cake, she warned. In the finished product, Lentein Powder in bakery products provides green color and mild matcha-like flavor. Its flavor easily goes complements flavors such as chocolate, almond and coconut.

When used in pasta, Lentein Powder can be claimed as a good source of fiber; improves the pasta’s protein quality; and has an improved essential amino acid content. The addition of this powder does not modify cooking loss and cooking weight of the pasta at recommended usage levels of 10%.

In sausage, Lentein Powder can be incorporated into meat products to reduce cost in formulation; reduce cooking loss; and it retains the product’s size and form. Substitution level of < 5% is recommended for sausage applications. Flavoring agents, such as garlic, black pepper and caraway, is recommended.

The superior dispersibility of Lentein Powder allows it for use in many different applications, such as protein shakes, smoothies, soups and more.

“A Novel Protein Ingredient for Your Next Innovation,” Supaporn Naknukool, Ph.D., Parabel USA Inc.,; Alternate contact: Cecelia Wittbjer, 321-405-9250 /
—Summary by Barbara T. Nessinger, Contributing Editor

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