2016 is the United Nations International Year of Pulses. Pulses, or grain legumes, include 12 crops such as dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils, which are high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients. There are actually hundreds of varieties of pulses worldwide, including black-eyed peas, kidney beans, butter beans and broad beans.
The United Nations campaign aims to raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits of all pulses, but also to boost the production of pulses and contribute towards more environmentally sustainable farming.
Pulses have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries.In fact, archaeological remains found in Anatolia (modern day Turkey) show that ancient agricultural production of chickpeas and lentils dates back to 7000 - 8000 B.C.
A powerful superfood
Pulses are vital for a healthy diet. They are packed with nutrients and are a fantastic source of protein. A meal containing pulses increases satiety, making us full for a long time. When added in a healthy balanced diet they can help to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and cancer.
Pulses are made up of about 20-25 percent of protein by weight. An average serving of 200 gr. cooked beans can give you around 18 grams of protein which is the amount of protein you get from eating 75gr. of cooked meat.
They can help in losing weight or in maintaining a healthy weight, as they have a very low fat content. They also have zero cholesterol and are great for reducing total or LDL cholesterol levels.
What you might not know about pulses
- For those who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, pulses can be added in the diet as they have a low glycaemic index which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar.
- Pulses are excellent sources of beneficial phytochemicals and fiber, helping in the prevention of various types of cancer.
- They are also naturally gluten free so they are ideal for celiac patients or other people who are sensitive to gluten.
- They contain a type of fiber that helps boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine (2).
- Their high iron and zinc content is especially beneficial for women and children at risk of anaemia. Add vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables and fruits to enhance iron absorption such as tomatoes, lemon, kiwi etc.
- They are rich in B-vitamins which are essential for an optimum metabolism and good functioning nervous system .
Tips for preparation / cooking
Soak and discard the water before cooking in order to remove a significant amount of phytates and tannins that might block the absorption of some micro-nutrients.
How pulses’ farming impacts the environment
Just 43 gallons of water can produce one pound of pulses, compared with 216 gallons for soybeans and 368 gallons for peanuts.
They have a small carbon footprint so they indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Production of pulses emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with beef production.
Pulses have nitrogen-fixing properties, which increase soil fertility, which improves and extends the productivity of farmland.
More affordable protein sources for people on all budgets
Take home message
Eat pulses two to three times a week. Try cooking with a new variety of pulse that you haven’t tasted before.
Simple Recipes you will love!
- Chickpea, dry 400 g
- Baking soda 4 g
- Sesame seed paste (tahini) 230 g
- Lemon, juice 10 ml
- Garlic, minced 100 g
- Table salt 5 g
- Onion, chopped 200 g
- Garlic, chopped 10 g
- Chickpea, dry 400 g
- Coriander 15 g
- Cumin, dry 10 g
- Pepper 3 g
- Parsley 15 g
- Table salt 5 g
Pizzorno, Lara. "Highlights From the Institute for Functional Medicine’s 2014 Annual Conference: Functional Perspectives on Food and Nutrition: The Ultimate Upstream Medicine."Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal13.5 (2014): 38.