Beluga black lentils glisten and shimmer when they are cooked,showing off the rich, dark-black sheen of their namesake--Belugacaviar. Although these attractive, nutritious members of the pea andbean family have been a culinary favorite for thousands of years, it isonly recently that scientists have unlocked the secret of theirappealing color.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Gary R. Takeoka andcolleagues have determined that the color-imparting compound is apreviously unknown, natural pigment known as an anthocyanin. And, likesome other anthocyanins, it may benefit our health.
Anthocyanins are responsible for the attractive reds, blues andpurples of many flowers, fruits and vegetables, according to Takeoka.He's examining Beluga black lentils and other legumes as candidateingredients for an array of new, healthful and great-tasting snacks. Acrispy, low-calorie, low-fat lentil snack that Takeoka andcoinvestigators are working to create may offer a satisfyingalternative to high-fat products.
Beluga black lentils are a tiny, quick-cooking, specialty food usedin salads, winter soups or other dishes. Perhaps better known in Europeand Asia than in the United States, this mild-flavored lentil is highin protein and a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins andcarbohydrates.
Takeoka, who is in the ARS Processed Foods Research Unit, did thelentil work in the agency's Western Regional Research Center in Albany,Calif. He and co-researchers described the new anthocyanin earlier thisyear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The compound's official chemical name is a lengthy tongue-twister:delphinidin-3-O-(2-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-alpha-L-arabinopyranoside).
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
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