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Pulse Flour Nutrition

Incorporating pulse flour into cereal-based products can have a significant impact on the overall nutritional quality of the product. In a recent study, blending wheat-based pasta with 30% pea or lentil flour resulted in an 18-27% increase in the Nutrient Balance Score, a measure that considers both qualifying nutrients (e.g. protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals) and disqualifying nutrients (e.g. salt, fat and cholesterol).1,7 The impact was even greater in a wheat-based breakfast cereal formulation, where incorporating 53% pea or lentil flour resulted in a 70-93% increase in the Nutrient Balance Score.

High in Protein

Pulse flours typically contain at least twice the amount of protein found in other flours like wheat, rice, potato, corn, and oat flours and can be used to boost the protein content of plant-based food products. For example, incorporating just 25% lentil flour into a wheat flour-based pasta adds 3 grams of protein per 100 g serving and reformulating breakfast cereal to include 53% lentil flour can add up to 78% more protein.1

Protein Content of Various Flours*

Protein content various flour

*Values are expressed in grams per 100 g and have been adjusted based on 10% moisture. Data for non-pulse flours is from the USDA Nutrient Database and Food Data Central. Pulse flour data is from analyses conducted by Merieux NutriSciences in 2015.

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Boost Protein Quality

Even though most plant sources of protein have lower levels of one or more essential amino acids, blending plant protein sources that have complementary amino acid profiles can improve protein quality, potentially qualifying a product for a protein claim. Pulses have higher amounts of the essential amino acid lysine, a limiting amino acid in cereals, nuts and seeds. Blending pulse flours with flours from cereals or nuts results in a better overall quality protein.

Improving the protein quality of cereal-based foods like bakery products and pasta is important as they are a main source of protein in the diets of consumers who are increasing their intake of plant-based foods2,3,4 Cereal-based and plant-based food options typically have a lower protein content and quality compared to animal-based protein sources. However, leveraging the high lysine content of pulse flours to make blended products provides consumers with more plant-based options that are familiar, staple foods with an improved nutritional profile for meeting protein requirements.

Nutrient Claims

Flours from peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans are clean label ingredients increasingly being used in a range of food products to make nutrition claims for elevated protein and fibre or marketing claims like gluten-free and plant-based.

Adding the right ratio of pulse flours can substantially increase the protein quality of a plant-based product. For products marketed under US or Canadian regulations, this can help to qualify a product for a protein content claim on the label. For example, reformulating wheat pasta to include 25% lentil flour increases the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) of the product from 0.43 to 0.71, making it qualify as a “good source of protein” in the US.

Webinar: Making protein claims on plant-based products

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Boost your benefits

See for yourself how pulse flour can improve your products' nutrient density. Customize your flour blend below.

Flour 1
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Protein Quality


Total fibre and protein content shown above is based on 100 grams of total flour. This calculator is for theoretical purposes only and should not be used to generate data for the purpose of nutritional labelling, advertising, or nutrient content claims in any jurisdiction. The data used to support the outputs were derived from peer-reviewed and grey literature (theses) and may not reflect actual protein content, protein quality, or fibre content of similar ingredients used alone or in combination with each other. Pulse Canada may not be held liable for any misuse of data generated from this website.

High in Fibre

Pulse flours are very high in fibre and contain both soluble and insoluble types. Pulse flours have 2 to 5 times the amount of fibre found in other cereal-based flours. Since most of the fibre is concentrated in the outer seed coat, or hull, of the pulse, whole pulse flours generally have higher levels of fibre than dehulled pulse flours. However, the majority of hull fibre is insoluble, so a dehulled pulse flour will have a higher concentration of soluble fibre. Pulse flours can significantly boost the fibre content of food products. For example, wheat pasta enriched with 30% pea flour can have up to 150% more fibre.1

Fiber Content of Various Flours*

Fibre content various flour

*Values are expressed as grams per 100 g and have been adjusted based on 10% moisture. Data for non-pulse flours is from the USDA Nutrient Database and Food Data Central. Pulse flour data is from analyses conducted by Merieux NutriSciences in 2015.

Carbohydrate Quality

Breakfast cereals, pasta, and bakery products are carbohydrate-rich foods. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the blood glucose-raising potential of available carbohydrates in high carbohydrate foods. The GI recognizes that equivalent amounts of available carbohydrates from different foods elicit glycemic responses which vary over a 4–5-fold range.8 Foods having available carbohydrate that is digested, absorbed and metabolized quickly are considered high GI foods (GI ≥ 70 on the glucose scale) whereas those with available carbohydrates that are digested, absorbed and metabolized slowly are considered low GI foods (GI ≤ 55 on the glucose scale).

Incorporating pulse flours in carbohydrate-rich foods can reduce the glycemic index. For example, incorporating 16% lentil flour into bread changed the glycemic index from medium (61) to low (53), without impacting the palatability.9 Consumer testing suggests that a low glycemic product claim can help your product appeal to label-scanning shoppers and stand out on the shelf.10

While GI is one measure of carbohydrate quality, several other indexes reflecting carbohydrate quality of carbohydrate-rich, packaged food products have been proposed.11 The simplest one is a total carbohydrate to dietary fibre ratio of <10:1 (or ≥1 g of fibre per 10 g of carbohydrate) to identify fibre-rich carbohydrate products. Studies have shown that applying this ratio is an effective measure to identify foods with better nutritional quality with more protein, vitamins and minerals.11 An example of 2 pasta products in the marketplace is provided below. The wheat product has a carbohydrate-to-fibre ratio of 20:1 whereas the red lentil product has only 5.5 grams of carbohydrates for each gram of fibre. The lentil product has almost twice the amount of protein and four times more potassium.

Nutritional Quality of Two Pasta Products

Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving Semolina, Durum 100% Red Lentil
Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving
Semolina, Durum
42 g
100% Red Lentil
34 g
Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving
Semolina, Durum
2 g
100% Red Lentil
6 g
Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving
Ratio (Carb:Fibre)
Semolina, Durum
100% Red Lentil
Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving
Semolina, Durum
7 g
100% Red Lentil
13 g
Per 2 oz (56 g) Serving
Semolina, Durum
118 mg
100% Red Lentil
518 mg

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to their high protein and fibre content, pulse flours naturally contain substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and folate making them a nutrient-dense flour option. Compared to most other flours, pulse flours have a higher potassium content. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, potassium is under-consumed and is considered a nutrient of public health concern. Food manufacturers are required to include potassium content on the new Nutrition Facts Label.

Potassium content various flours

*Values are expressed as mg per 100 g and have been adjusted based on 10% moisture. Data for non-pulse flours is from the USDA Nutrient Database and Food Data Central. Pulse flour data is from analyses conducted by Merieux NutriSciences in 2015.

Improving Gluten-Free Products

A recent study examined the nutritional quality of gluten-free products in the market and found that these products contained less protein and fibre, and higher content of saturated fat, carbohydrate and salt compared to gluten-containing products.5 More gluten-containing products met the nutrition claim “high in fibre” (fibre> 6 g/100 g) compared to the gluten-free products. Differences in micronutrients were observed in a selection of gluten-free breads, flakes and pasta, when compared with their respective gluten-containing counterparts.6

Gluten-free products were generally lower in iron and B vitamins including folate. In addition to their high fibre and protein content, pulse flours naturally contain high levels of iron and folate, making them well suited to formulating more nutritious gluten-free foods.

Folate Content of Gluten-Free Flours*

Folate content gluten free flours

*Values are expressed as µg per 100 g and have been adjusted based on 10% moisture. Data for non-pulse flours is from the USDA Nutrient Database and Food Data Central. Pulse flour data is from analyses conducted by Mérieux NutriSciences in 2015.

Blending with Pulses to Boost Nutrition

Pulse flours offer a unique set of nutritional benefits for food products. Because of their high protein and lysine content in particular, pulses are one of the only non-soy, plant-based ingredients that can improve the protein quality of cereal-based and plant-based foods. With a high complex carbohydrate composition, pulse flours can contribute to significant increases in the fibre content of food products, a nutrient that is lacking in the diet for most North Americans. As a nutrient-dense ingredient, they can boost nutritional content for a variety of vitamins and minerals in addition to protein and fibre. Pulse flours can also help to meet marketing claims for products that are low glycemic index, plant-based, or gluten-free.


  1. Chaudhary A, Marinangeli C, Tremorin D, Mathys A. Nutritional Combined Greenhouse Gas Life Cycle Analysis for Incorporating Canadian Yellow Pea into Cereal-Based Food Products. Nutrients. 2018; 10(4): 490. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu1004...
  2. Pasiakos SM, Agarwal S, Lieberman HR, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Sources and Amounts of Animal, Dairy, and Plant Protein Intake of US Adults in 2007-2010. Nutrients. 2015;7(8):7058-7069. Published 2015 Aug 21. doi:10.3390/nu7085322
  3. Hoy MK, Murayi T, Moshfegh AJ. Diet Quality and Food Intakes samong US Adults by Level of Animal Protein Intake, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2018. Curr Dev Nutr. 2022;6(5):nzac035. Published 2022 Mar 17. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzac035
  4. Marinangeli CPF, Fabek H, Ahmed M, Sanchez-Hernandez D, Foisy S, House JD. The effect of increasing intakes of plant protein on the protein quality of Canadian diets. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2021;46(7):771-780. doi:10.1139/apnm-2020-1027
  5. Myhrstad MCW, Slydahl M, Hellmann M, Garnweidner-Holme L, Lundin KEA, Henriksen C, Telle-Hansen VH. Nutritional quality and costs of gluten-free products: a case-control study of food products on the Norwegian marked. Food Nutr Res. 2021 Mar 26;65. doi: 10.29219/fnr.v65.6121. PMID: 33841066; PMCID: PMC8009084.
  6. Larretxi I, Txurruka I, Navarro V, Lasa A, Bustamante MÁ, Fernández-Gil MDP, Simón E, Miranda J. Micronutrient Analysis of Gluten-Free Products: Their Low Content Is Not Involved in Gluten-Free Diet Imbalance in a Cohort of Celiac Children and Adolescent. Foods. 2019 Aug 7;8(8):321. doi: 10.3390/foods8080321. PMID: 31394809; PMCID: PMC6723272.
  7. Fern EB, Watzke H, Barclay DV, Roulin A, Drewnowski A. The Nutrient Balance Concept: A New Quality Metric for Composite Meals and Diets. PLoS One. 2015 Jul 15;10(7):e0130491. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130491. PMID: 26176770; PMCID: PMC4503684.
  8. Augustin L, Kendall C, Jenkins J, Willett W, Astrup A, Barclay A, Björck I, Brand-Miller J, Brighenti F, Buyken A, Ceriello A, La Vecchia C, Livesey G, Liu S, Riccardi G, Rizkalla S, Sievenpiper J, Trichopoulou A, Wolever T, Baer-Sinnott S, Poli A. Glycemic index, glycemic load and glycemic response: An International Scientific Consensus Summit from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC). Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2015. Volume 25, Issue 9, 795-815.
  9. Fujiwara N, Hall C, Jenkins AL. 2017. Development of Low Glycemic Index (GI) Foods by Incorporating Pulse Ingredients into Cereal-Based Products: Use of In Vitro Screening and In Vivo Methodologies. Cereal Chemistry. 94 (1): 110-116.
  10. Marinangeli CPF, Castellano J, Torrance P, et al. Positioning the Value of Dietary Carbohydrate, Carbohydrate Quality, Glycemic Index, and GI Labelling to the Canadian Consumer for Improving Dietary Patterns. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):457. Published 2019 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/nu11020457
  11. Campos V, Tappy L, Bally L, Sievenpiper JL, Lê KA. Importance of Carbohydrate Quality: What Does It Mean and How to Measure It?. J Nutr. 2022;152(5):1200-1206. doi:10.1093/jn/nxac039