Tara Flour: Exploring Alternatives for High-Protein Flours

Tara flour, derived from the seeds of the Tara spinosa tree, has emerged as a new plant-based protein source in the North American market. However, recent safety concerns have raised questions about its suitability for consumption. This article delves into the controversy surrounding Tara flour, examining its potential risks and highlighting alternative high-protein flour that offers healthier culinary options.

Key takeaways:

Tara flour is made from seeds of Tara spinosa, a South American tree. Peru provides more than 80% of the world's tara-flour supply.

Tara fruit contains high amounts of tannins; the tara pods (without seeds) are used to produce tanning agents for leather. Furthermore, the seeds are used to make gum used as a food additive.

Is tara flour safe?

Tara flour is a new plant-based protein source that recently entered the North American market. Tara flour has received a fair amount of publicity since the 2022 incident in which it caused severe gastrointestinal issues.

The product caused adverse effects in 393 people and hospitalized 133. An investigation was initiated by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to identify the cause of the illness. The company held tara flour accountable for its adverse effects after using it for the first time.

Although the ingredients causing illness haven't been identified yet. A 2023 study investigated the effects of tara flour in animal models to determine the cause of the sickness. Researchers suspect that baikiain, a naturally occurring agent in tara flour, led to the adverse effects.

To help identify the issue, researchers administered baikiain to mice. Results showed significant abnormalities in blood and liver enzymes. However, the FDA hasn't concluded that baikiain was the reason for illness. The FDA's investigation is still ongoing.

Tara flour has been used to produce various ingredients. For example, tannic acid, extracted from tara seed pods, has been categorized as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. However, this does not guarantee tara flour's absolute safety.

Nutritional value of various flours

Tara flour has high protein content. Tara seeds contain 67% of carbohydrates and 19% of protein. However, other flours contain more protein than tara flour.

Tara flour products are available in markets, though not widely available due to their questionable safety. However, if you're looking for high-protein flour, many flours provide plenty of protein. For instance, flour is commonly made from grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and even coconut fruits.

The type of flour Protein content / per 100 g flour
Tara19 g
Soy35 g
Hemp 33 g
Lentil 25 g
Pea 25 g
Chickpea22 g
Almond21 g
Coconut19 g
Oat16 g
Quinoa 14 g
Buckwheat 13 g
Rice 6 g

Personal preferences and recipe requirements dictate the use of various flour. Experimenting with recipes to discover new ways to incorporate these flours into a menu can be fun and exciting. Here are several ideas to get started:

  • Soy flour. Use in bread, muffins, pancakes, and cookies for added protein.
  • Hemp flour. Blend into smoothies for added protein and fiber.
  • Lentil flour. Great for making Indian-style lentil flatbreads like besan chilla or besan puda.
  • Pea flour. Ideal for homemade protein bars or energy balls for a plant-based protein source.
  • Chickpea flour (besan). Used to make socca — a dish somewhere in between a pancake and flatbread — plus fritters or vegan omelets. Chickpea flour can also be added to cookies or quick bread for a dense and nutty flavor.
  • Almond flour. Use in cakes, cookies, and tart crusts for a moist texture and nutty taste.
  • Coconut flour. Ideal for gluten-free baking, it gives a delicious coconut taste to bakery desserts like cakes and muffins.
  • Oat flour. Use as a coating prior to cooking.
  • Quinoa flour. Use as a gluten-free thickener for sauces, soups, or stews.
  • Buckwheat flour. Perfect for fluffy, gluten-free buckwheat pancakes.

The FDA is still investigating the products containing Tara flour. Therefore, no established safety status has been published. Food manufacturers use various ingredients, so consumers should read labels to understand what is in their food. However, for now, it's probably best to pass on tara flour until more research results and evidence emerges. Until then, consumers can try the many other available high-protein flours that have been proven to be safe.

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