Everything You Need To Know About Pulses

Why the United Nations Thinks You Should Be Eating More

Trying to eat healthy can often feel like an exercise in futility. What vegetables give me which nutrients? Are carbs good or bad? How much should I be eating? Do I need to count calories? Are any of these 14 diets I just read about in the past 14 minutes worth trying?

What happened to the sage advice of yesteryear to simply eat a balance of foods in moderate portions and get some exercise? We often get so tangled up in the nitty-gritty of exactly what and what not to eat that it makes our lives more difficult than necessary, and we feel defeated when it comes to healthy living. But it needn’t be so complicated.

What Are Pulses?

The United Nations has declared 2016 the year of pulses, which is much less complicated than it seems when you realize that pulses include many of the foods you’re already familiar with, including peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and broad beans. You’re probably less familiar with others, such as cowpeas, bambara beans, pigeon peas, lupins, and vetches.

Pulses are simply the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. They grow in pods; come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors; and are harvested dry.

Approximately 170 different countries grow and export pulses. You’re likely more familiar with the pulses grown in North America. These include beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. However, pulses are grown on five continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. This makes them an important food group no matter where you live.

The Bigger Health Picture of Pulses

We should be eating more pulses in 2016 for three simple reasons: they’re sustainable, efficient, and nutritious. This approach to healthy living is so refreshing because it isn’t just all about you. It looks at the world as a dynamic health ecosystem.

What’s good for the planet and for people who live half a world away is good for you too. There’s no point in pursuing an esoteric diet if your eating habits are leading to the destruction of the essential crops needed to support that diet. You’ll be worse off when your diet food runs out, crop farmers will be worse off when they lose their livelihoods, and the planet will be worse off for losing the resources needed to feed a global population.

Why Pulses Are Good for You

Pulses are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and many essential nutrients.

Because protein and fiber can help you feel fuller longer, pulses can help with weight management. Due to their low levels of saturated and trans fats, they’re also good for your heart. As a complex carbohydrate, they also help keep blood sugar levels in check, helping you reduce the risk of or manage diabetes. Their high fiber and low fat content as well as the antioxidant vitamins they contain are even thought to help mitigate the risk of cancer.

Pulses are a valuable alternative for those who suffer from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Why Pulses Are Good for the Planet

Pulses have a low carbon footprint. Amazingly, they actually pull nitrogen from the air to create their own type of fertilizer, so they don’t need the nitrogen fertilizers common to many crop productions. While most of the greenhouse gas emissions from crop production come from nitrogen fertilizer, pulses actually take nitrogen out of the air. The nitrogen-rich residue they leave behind enriches the soil for the next crop that’s planted.

Pulses are also very water efficient, partly because some of them adapt very well to dry conditions; peas and lentils in particular don’t drain the deeper soil of its water, allowing successful crop rotation.

Pulses also provide robust nutrition and income for farmers worldwide, ensuring that they can continue producing in the future.

Click here for three healthy, delicious pulse recipes you can make for your family tonight!

Nicola is passionate about travel, food, digital media, and psychology. An award-winning writer and communication consultant, she is owner and principal of Think Forward Communication and Editor-in-chief at AnewTraveller.com.

See also:
10 Ways to Celebrate the International Year of Pulses
Beans 101 – Cheap, Nutritious and Super Healthy