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Chickpea as a potential source of high-quality protein for food formula

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Chickpeas for soybeans

Soya has been extensively cultivated for food and soil improvement, but especially for its nutritious oil-rich seeds. This non-European product may induce allergies, but most importantly it is extensively linked to the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Therefore, exploration of alternative plant sources for food applications is highly needed.

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Chickpeas are plant sources of protein and phytochemicals, which may be non-allergenic. The exceptional nutritional and functional properties of these seeds offer a high potential for using them in foodstuffs. Until now, this potential has not been thoroughly investigated although their cultivation is extensive in Europe. Challenged by that the CHICKFOOD project focused on developing new chickpea types that cover a wide nutrient spectrum and are suitable for direct use or in end products. In addition, researchers aimed at the development of preparation processes for chickpeas with improved nutritional value in terms of protein and phytochemicals. At first, various chickpea varieties were studied and characterised in terms of their protein, flavonoid and saponin content. Moreover, varieties have been also specified in terms of yield and adaptability to climatic conditions. The nutritional content of chickpeas was also found to depend on the respective growing practices such as irrigation. A genetic map of their micronutrient content including carotenoids and saponins has been generated and special marker tags have been specified for relevant genes. As such SMTS markers linked to seed weight and carotenoid content traits have been identified. Moreover, saponins were found to have potential interesting applications in the cosmetic industry. A process for protein extraction has also been developed, which was found to be more expensive in comparison to conventional soya extraction processes. The functional performance of chickpeas showed that they are still not commercially viable to be further used as foaming emulsifying and gelling agent. Nevertheless, chickpeas could be employed in the form of active ingredients in more complex applications, such as textured protein products. The research work provides the basis for improving the nutritional quality of chickpeas and means to understand the metabolic pathways governing major agronomical and nutritional factors. For additional information, click at: http://www.chickfood.info

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