- Rapeseed protein, also known as canola protein, is a valuable ingredient for human nutrition, according to research published during the summer in the journal Nutrients. It has similar metabolic effects as soy protein after it's been eaten, and can make people feel more satiated, researchers found.
- In the study, 20 people were given meals containing soy protein, rapeseed protein or no additional protein. Different levels of nutrients and chemicals in the body, including amino acids, glucose and lipids, were analyzed by blood tests during the course of six hours. Study participants assessed their satiety based on a numeric scale.
- Plant-based proteins are one of the hottest areas, with companies working to create new protein ingredients from crops including pea, soy and wheat that will improve nutrition, functionality and taste of new products. So far, canola protein has not been widely used as an ingredient for these kinds of products.
As the plant-based alternative segment booms, it makes sense to find new proteins from which to build products. The three most popular proteins used today — peas, soy and wheat — can be used to make high-quality products.
But they also each have their own limitations. Soy and wheat are both top allergens, meaning they're two of the most common allergens among consumers in the United States. Pea protein is relatively non-allergenic, but it's been known to be difficult for some people to digest.
It also makes sense to add different kinds of crops to diets, both for sustainability and nutritional reasons. This study shows that when consumed, canola protein has similar nutritional qualities to soy, and could be a new tool from which to build plant-based protein.
Rapeseed is currently grown mainly for its oil. A variety of rapeseed is canola, which was created through crossbreeding in the 1970s to eliminate undesirable components in rapeseed plants. Canola is considered an edible rapeseed plant, while the oil from conventional rapeseed is often used for biodiesel.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics cited by the U.S. Canola Association, there were about 2 million acres of canola planted last year. Production is about 3,600 pounds per acre, creating more than 7.2 billion pounds of canola.
In order to extract canola oil, the seeds from the plants are crushed. The remaining crushed seeds, known as canola meal, are commonly used as protein-packed animal feed. While canola promotion websites say it can be used as a protein for humans, it isn't a common ingredient.
The researchers who did this study told Food Navigator canola protein has a mustardy taste, which would limit its use in sweet applications. But considering the growth of the plant-based meat market, which is in constant need of new savory tastes, there could be many applications for the protein. Among its benefits, the protein comes from what's left behind from oil extraction, which would make canola protein a trendy upcycled ingredient.
The next step now is for ingredients manufacturers to make canola meal into something useful for different applications. As the plant-based meat segment gets more crowded, companies are looking for ways to make their offerings stand out. Canola has the nutritional properties manufacturers want, a unique flavor that could benefit the end product and a good sustainability story. The biggest remaining question is how it can be made into a functional ingredient.