29 June 2012

Green banana pasta a gluten-free option

Green banana pasta: it could be what's for dinner for people with coeliac disease.


Green banana pasta: it could be what's for dinner for people with coeliac disease.

Researchers from Brazil found most people with and without the intestinal condition liked the taste and texture of the alternative dinner option.

Because the only treatment for coeliac disease is to go on a strict gluten-free diet, people with it and other types of gluten intolerance often turn to pastas made with rice, corn, or quinoa flours.

But when cooked, those products tend to lose the elasticity of traditional pasta. And, they can cost a lot more.

"The challenge with gluten-free pastas is that they don't cook similarly to wheat pasta, they don't hold well," said Cynthia Kupper, a dietician and director of the Gluten Intolerance Group, a non-profit association that supports people with gluten intolerance.

She said she wouldn't serve those options at a dinner party. "It's going to either be brick-hard or mush by the time it's served. The nutritional quality is not that great either in most of these pastas."

Brazilian researchers wanted to see if pasta made with green banana flour a cheap and easily produced alternative, they say  might be another possibility.

How the study was done

Dr. Raquel Botelho, a nutritionist from the University of Brasilia, and her colleagues used a test pasta made out of flour from dried ground bananas, egg whites, water and guar and xanthan gums, which add firmness and elasticity.

They fed the creation to 25 taste-testers with celiac disease and another 50 without the condition. The researchers also gave the non-celiac group a whole wheat pasta option, made from wheat flour and eggs, as a comparison meal.

More than four out of five celiac participants rated the green banana pasta as a six or higher on a nine-point hedonic scale.

That figure was lower for people who weren't gluten intolerant about 60% gave the pasta a good rating. But they rated the green banana pasta the same as whole wheat pasta for flavour, aroma, and appearance and liked the texture of the banana dish better, the research team reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And the banana product had fewer calories and less fat per serving than the whole wheat version.

Good for intestine health

Dr. Botelho said she and her colleagues are optimistic about the use of green banana flour outside of studies.

"Green banana has bioactive compounds and resistant starch that are good for intestine health," she told Reuters Health in an email.

What's more, Dr. Botelho added, "We can use green banana flour to produce other products for celiac patients like bread, biscuits, pizza dough."

Kupper, who wasn't involved in the new study, said she was "intrigued" by the idea of using green banana flour to make gluten-free pasta.

"The nutritional value looks as good or better than wheat-based products," she told Reuters Health, adding that she'd still like to see more nutritional tests done, such as on the glycaemia index of the pasta.

"What will be interesting to see is if they can take this out of the lab," and get a small company to try making it, Kupper said. "I think it's something that we need to explore."

(Genevra Pittman, Reuters Health, June 2012) 

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