Aquafaba is the liquid that comes in a can of beans or the cooking liquid resulting from boiling beans at home. When whipped up in a standing or hand mixer, aquafaba can be an excellent egg-replacement for many egg-dependent foods like baked goods, meringue, and mayonnaise. This fun, recent discovery by first Joël Roessel and then modified by Goose Wohlt has rapidly gained popularity since 2015. Because of aquafaba's ability to create foam, build and maintain fluffiness, and be flavorless after cooking and baking, lacto-vegetarians and vegans may have found the perfect replacement for eggs.
What’s the health?
The USDA currently does not have aquafaba’s nutrition breakdown in their database. However, a nutrient analysis sponsored by aquafaba.com shows that 1 tablespoon of aquafaba contains little to no nutritional value, despite its make-up of mostly carbohydrate and some traces of protein from cooking.
Where does it belong?
It’s natural to assume that since we can use aquafaba like we use eggs, they are equal in nutritional value. But, as stated above, aquafaba doesn’t have much nourishment to offer. Eggs are a great source of protein and fat and contain vitamin D and vitamin B12. So in comparison, the nutrient density of eggs is much greater than aquafaba.
Saponins are phytochemicals present in many plant foods such as vegetables, beans, and herbs. They have a soap-like characteristic that when shaken with water, creating a sudsy mixture, which explains why aquafaba is great at building a meringue-like structure. While all beans produce aquafaba, chickpeas yield the best results in both taste and body.
Saponins are thermal sensitive, meaning the overall level of saponins are easily lost during soaking, washing, cooking, and canning. This thermal sensitivity is particularly helpful because we want to limit our intake of saponins for preventative measures. In the past, saponins have been labeled as an anti-nutrient, a nutrient that prevents essential nutrients from being absorbed. But, now studies show them as having health benefits. Recent research suggests that low to moderate consumption of saponins is not harmful to the human body and can assist in reducing cholesterol and preventing against cancer. The bottom line is to put this phytochemical in the neutral camp, not being a superhero or a villain. Having foods that naturally contain saponins are often nutritious and beneficial to our health.
Aquafaba is quite ingenious. As a leavening agent and baking substitute, aquafaba can help vegan treats achieve a similar taste and texture to desserts traditionally made with eggs. When it comes to consuming it as an egg or protein replacement in meals though, it’s better to choose other naturally high-protein options like tofu or chickpeas. And, there is no need to worry about the saponin levels because the overall amount is divided among the entire recipe, making it only a small portion of what we ingest.