Environment

Fava beans may be a greener substitute for soy

Fava beans may be a greener su...
Fava beans – also known as broad beans or faba beans
Fava beans – also known as broad beans or faba beans
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Fava beans – also known as broad beans or faba beans
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Fava beans – also known as broad beans or faba beans

Many vegans and vegetarians swear by soy as a meat-free protein source, but concerns have been raised over the environmental sustainability of soybean farming. With that in mind, new research now suggests that specially-prepared fava beans may be a better alternative.

Although some varieties are relatively cold-tolerant, soybeans generally must be grown in places with warm climates.

This means that they (or the soy products made from them) have to be exported to consumers in cooler regions – the ships, trucks and trains used in this process produce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, in countries such as Paraguay and Brazil, it's not uncommon for large sections of rainforest to be cut down in order to make space for soybean fields.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen therefore recently looked to other crops like lentils, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and fava beans, which can be grown in cool climates such as that of Denmark. When it came to suitability for producing a concentrated protein powder, it was found that the beans worked best.

The researchers utilized a technique known as "wet fractionation" wherein fava beans were first milled into a flour, to which water was then added to form a slurry. Less beneficial, harder-to-digest substances including fibers and starch were then removed from that slurry, which was subsequently dried to form a powder.

The finished product is tasteless and contains high levels of fava bean proteins. Tests showed that those proteins were "nearly as readily digested" as those that are present in animal products like eggs and meat.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Foods.

Source: University of Copenhagen

8 comments
TechGazer
Do they think that fava beans won't be grown in an unsustainable manner if a large profitable market develops for them? Unsustainability is the result of greed, and we don't have a cure for that yet.
Worzel
These are my favourite type of bean. They are easy to grow, but in my area difficult to protect from predators of all kinds, flying, walking, crawling, or slithering. However, my local supermarket stocks them frozen, year round. Why anyone would want to ''synthesise'' them is beyond understanding. All you need to do is cook, eat, and enjoy them!
Baker Steve
'...harder-to-digest substances including fibers...were then removed' sounds as the process discards something that most Westerners are short of in their diet. But there's a much more fundamental difference between soy beans and fava beans: only one of them is worth eating :-)
Aross
If there is a way to screw things up business and science will find a way. Fava beans are great just as they are, no need to "Fix" them.
DaveWesely
Only about 6% of soybeans grown worldwide are used for human consumption, and most of that is for cooking oil. Only 1% of soybean meal, the main ingredient in tofu, is used for human consumption. Switching your diet to fava bean or anything else won't affect soybean production. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/where_do_all_these_soybeans_go
Troublesh00ter
All we need now is a nice Chianti!
ljaques
At least fava beans aren't GMO...yet. I've never tried them, with or without Chianti. <slurp, slurp,slurp>
John Peloquin
"soybeans generally must be grown in places with warm climates." Who knew Minnesota, WisconsinIowa and Illinois, BIG producers of soybeans were warm climates?