Beluga black lentils.
Image courtesy Indian Harvest Specialtifoods,
New, Healthful Compound Discovered in Exotic
Lentils By Marcia Wood September 16, 2005
Beluga black lentils glisten and shimmer when they are cooked, showing
off the rich, dark-black sheen of their namesake--Beluga caviar. Although these
attractive, nutritious members of the pea and bean family have been a culinary
favorite for thousands of years, it is only recently that scientists have
unlocked the secret of their appealing color.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist
Takeoka and colleagues have determined that the color-imparting compound is
a previously unknown, natural pigment known as an anthocyanin. And, like some
other anthocyanins, it may benefit our health.
Anthocyanins are responsible for the attractive reds, blues and
purples of many flowers, fruits and vegetables, according to Takeoka. He's
examining Beluga black lentils and other legumes as candidate ingredients for
an array of new, healthful and great-tasting snacks. A crispy, low-calorie,
low-fat lentil snack that Takeoka and coinvestigators are working to create may
offer a satisfying alternative to high-fat products.
Beluga black lentils are a tiny, quick-cooking, specialty food used in
salads, winter soups or other dishes. Perhaps better known in Europe and Asia
than in the United States, this mild-flavored lentil is high in protein and a
good source of magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins and carbohydrates.
Takeoka, who is in the ARS
Foods Research Unit, did the lentil work in the agency's
Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif. He and co-researchers described
the new anthocyanin earlier this year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food
The compound's official chemical name is a lengthy tongue-twister:
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.