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Bambara: A Vegan Protein Source

30 Sep 2021

The future of our legumes

The Bambara groundnut is a legume indigenous to Africa and is widely cultivated across Asia. This nutrient-dense legume is also often referred to as seeds and, like peanuts, ripen underground. 

Bambara groundnuts vary in colour from black, dark brown, red, white, cream or a combination of these colours. It is round, hard and resistant under adverse environmental conditions such as drought and poor soil quality. When it comes to nutrition, Bambara nut is sometimes called a “complete food” due to its balanced macronutrient composition. 

What does Bambara groundnut offer?

Bambara groundnut is made up of, on average, 64% carbohydrates, 24% protein and 6.5% fat. It is also rich in minerals and a myriad of beneficial plant compounds (called phytochemicals) that have profound healing effects on the body.

Carbohydrates are the most abundant macronutrient in Bambara groundnut, with the majority of them being complex oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Starch - a complex, insoluble carbohydrate - makes up 49% of the total carbohydrates in Bambara. We rely on starch as our major source of energy, which makes Bambara groundnut a great addition to our diet.

The starch in this legume is mostly in the form of slowly digestible starch and resistant starch, which have many implicated health benefits, including weight loss, healthy gut microbiome, healthy heart function, improved insulin sensitivity and better digestion. Bambara groundnut also provides fibre, which makes up about 5% of its dry mass. And we all know how good fibre is for our body! If you'd like to learn about resistant starch, read this!

Protein content in Bambara groundnut ranges from 9 to 40% depending on the variety and growing conditions of the plant. If you are looking for a high and good-quality protein food, Bambara groundnut is an excellent choice.

The major amino acids (building blocks of protein) found are glutamic acid as well as the essential amino acids leucine and lysine. Glutamic acid is extremely important for the nervous system, while leucine and lysine play a major role in muscle synthesis and recovery. This is especially important if you are following a plant-based diet and looking for ways to increase your protein intake.

Dietary fat is also found in Bambara groundnut, with the majority being unsaturated (the beneficial fats) in the form of omega-6 fatty acids. It also provides a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these types of fat can help to improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabllise heart rhythms, improve memory and cognition, as well as benefit mental well-being.

If that’s not enough..

Bambara groundnut is rich in essential micronutrients that are important for health, including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron. All of these nutrients play unique roles in the body, and we rely on all of these to maintain optimal health.

It also provides a myriad of phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, catechins and tannins, which have been studied extensively in recent years. These beneficial plant compounds have been associated with health-boosting properties, including antioxidant, anti-tumor, cardioprotective (protects heart health) and neuroprotective (promotes nerve cells) properties. All of these amazing benefits are found in a single round legume!

If you are wondering what the Bambara nut tastes like, try our delicious Bam Choco latte! It’s a beautiful blend of Bambara groundnut, cacao, cardamom and vanilla powder. It is good as a latte and works great as a protein powder but even better in your brownies - here’s a recipe formulated by an Accredited Nutritionist Thimpika. Enjoy!

Brownie recipe

Ingredients / 8 pieces⁣

150 ml aquafaba (a can’s worth)⁣ 

2/3 cup almond meal⁣

1/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour⁣

1/4 cup coconut sugar⁣

¼ cup cacao powder⁣

2 tbsp Dhow Bam Choco latte

1/4 cup plant milk⁣

1 tsp vanilla extract⁣

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt⁣

Icing sugar, to top (optional)

*Aquafaba refers to the juice in chickpea cans. Instead of this,  you can also use the juice of other beans like butter beans or cannellini beans.

Method⁣

  1. Whisk the aquafaba until it becomes light and fluffy — similar to that of whipped cream. This should take about 10-15 minutes. ⁣
  2. Mix all the ingredients together.⁣
  3. Bake under 180°C (160°C fan-forced) for 35-40 minutes. ⁣
  4. Sprinkle some icing sugar or anything you fancy really!⁣
  5. Enjoy warm or store in an air-tight container for later. ⁣
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