World Pulses Day: Pulses can feed the world (they mostly already do)
February 7, 2023
Pulses, which include chickpeas, lentils, and beans, as well as soya, peanuts, and many others, are some of the most nutritious crops in Mother Nature’s pantry. Pulses are an inexpensive source of protein, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, and fibre, and are also highly beneficial for sustainable agricultural practices. Let’s dive into the wonderful world of pulses on their special day.
What are pulses?
Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. A legume refers to any plant from the Fabaceae family, while a pulse is the edible seed from a legume plant (the terms legumes and pulses are sometimes used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings). Common pulses include chickpeas, lentils, peas, and beans.
Picture Source: ProVeg
Legumes and pulses: great for our bodies and the soil
Pulses have been consumed for at least 10,000 years and are a nutritious core staple of most diets around the world. Pulses are an inexpensive source of protein, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, and fibre, as well as a significant source of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium. In addition, the phytochemicals, saponins, and tannins in pulses possess antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects, indicating that pulses may have significant anti-cancer effects.
Almost all national dietary guidelines around the world recommend the regular consumption of legumes and pulses. These guidelines are governments’ recommendations for the composition of individuals’ diets. They serve as the framework for food, nutrition, health, and agriculture policies, as well as for programmes that foster healthy diets and lifestyles.
Vegan and vegetarian diets have the potential to prevent most modern lifestyle diseases, which is why an increasing number of doctors and health institutions promote plant-based nutrition.
In addition to their health benefits and multiple applications in cooking, pulses and legumes are also very useful for sustainable agricultural practices. It’s no wonder that three out of the four crops used in the EU-funded Smart Protein project are pulses. The Smart Protein project aims to explore the crop suitability and processing quality of fava beans, lentils, and chickpeas (in addition to quinoa, which is a pseudo grain) in seven representative pedo-climatic zones in Europe (Denmark, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain), using organic regenerative farming systems. (Pedo-climatic zones are areas of relatively homogenous soil type and climate conditions.) Legumes are good candidates for regenerative organic agriculture as they produce a number of different compounds that feed soil microbes and benefit soil health. Additionally, after pulse crops are harvested, they leave behind nitrogen-rich crop residues that provide extra nutrients for the next crop that is grown. With their nitrogen-fixing properties, they require less fertiliser, thereby helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
On this World Pulses Day, let’s celebrate all the wonders of pulses and incorporate them more and more in our diets. Check out our delicious pulse-based recipes here, including vegan sin carne, paella with bell peppers, beans, and peas and healthy vegan chickpea fudge!
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