WINNIPEG, MAN. — A burger blend of beef and lentils had 12% fewer calories and 32% less saturated fat per serving when compared to an all-beef patty in a study funded by Pulse Canada that was published online Aug. 19 in Sustainability. Other benefits were a 26% lower production cost and a 33% reduction in carbon footprint, water footprint and land-use footprint.
“With one-third of Americans identifying as flexitarian, we're seeing a definite rise in interest in meat products enhanced with plant protein,” said Amber Johnson, director of marketing and communications at Lentils.org, a promotional brand funded by Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. “Lentil blends like the lentil-beef burger provide an exciting opportunity for food manufacturers to develop a host of blended food products — ranging from patties to meatloaf to pasta sauce — that not only answer this demand, but also improve their products' nutrition, environmental impact and cost.”
The study, which may be found here, involved researchers from Winnipeg-based Pulse Canada and the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India.
The burger patty with lentils contained 75.84 grams of raw ground beef (66%) 30.41 grams of whole cooked lentils (26.5%), 7.51 grams of water, 1 gram of salt (0.87%) and 0.23 grams of black pepper (0.2%). The researchers compared the nutrient balance score, which covers 27 essential macro and micronutrients, and environmental footprints, including carbon, water scarcity, land use and biodiversity of the all-beef burger and a burger that included beef and cooked lentil puree.
The burger with lentil puree had 60 times higher dietary fiber, three times higher total folate, five times higher total manganese and 1.6 times higher selenium than the all-beef burger. Beef has higher amounts of calories, protein, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E and choline than lentils. Still, incorporating lentils into the burger patty improved the nutrient density by more than 20% when compared with the traditional beef burger.
Lentils also have environmental benefits in that they are pulses, which do not require irrigation at the farm level and fix atmospheric nitrogen, thus reducing nitrogen fertilizer requirements. Lentils showed cost-effective benefits in that the price of lean ground beef in Canada is $5.79 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) compared to $3.41 per kilogram for lentils, according to the study.