We Discover the Importance of Pulses – Nutritious, Cost Effective and Tasty
If you’ve sat down to a warming bowl of dhal, tucked into beans on toast or scooped up hummus with crudité, then you’ve enjoyed the myriad of benefits that pulses provide. Few food groups come close to pulses in terms of versatility, cost-effectiveness and nutrition, which is why the global demand for them is rapidly increasing.
The importance of pulses as a solution to global malnutrition has been recognised, leading the UN to declare 2016 International Year of Pulses. This declaration underpins this category of food as an important solution to feeding the world sustainably. The inaugural World Pulses Day was also celebrated in 2016, cementing the importance of this food group.
Firstly what are Pulses?
Pulses are essentially the edible seeds of the legume family and include dried peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans.
The Importance of Pulses
The popularity of pulses is not a new phenomenon. They have been a staple part of diets around the world as far back as 11 thousand years ago and with good reason.
Plant Based Protein
Pulses are nutritious and sustainable sources of plant-based protein. They are full of minerals, are generally low in fat and provide sustained energy due to their glycaemic index.
Good for You
Besides delivering good amounts of protein, pulses also contain fibre, as well as a host of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, potassium, magnesium folate, zinc and iron. And, while carbohydrates have received a bad rap over the past few years due to diet trends, the fact is that unprocessed versions (such as pulses) are part of a balanced diet.
They are also cost-effective to produce, which keeps them competitively priced. This is appealing to low-income households, where nutritious meals that keep you full for longer, are of paramount importance.
Another tick for pulses is on the agricultural side; pulses have proven effective at decreasing greenhouse gases, the rotation of pulses increases soil health, and as a crop, they use less water than many others.
Not only are they sustainable as a crop but they also provide a source of safe feed for the livestock industry.
The Four F’s
It’s a well-known fact that the global population is increasing at a rapid rate. Advances in medicine keep us alive longer and so the death rate has slowed. This is great news for us as humans but of course, there is a knock on effect and that is that the systems in place have to keep up with growing demand.
The pressure for provisions to be available is growing and not only that but as a society we demand it with immediacy and we also now want it delivered in a sustainable and ethical manner too.
“The global demand chain for agriculture has been fueled by population explosion, as well as changing key industry drivers,” says George Tomazos, COO AGT Foods.
This is where pulses come into play. Tomorrow’s food is about the four F’s – Food, Fuel, Fibre and Feed and pulses are checking boxes in all categories.
Food – pulses are high in protein and have a low glycaemic index
Fuel – certain pulses are the subject of research for use as biodiesel and ethanol as alternative energy sources (read more at interestingengineering.com)
Fibre – for nutritional and industrial use
Feed – safe feedstock for the livestock industry
Increased Demand for Non-animal Based Protein
Another reality that is driving supply is increasing demand for non-animal based proteins. People are looking for alternative protein sources as the awareness of plant-based and vegan diets increases – pushing the importance of pulses to the forefront.
“Pulses are an important source of non-animal based protein, especially in developing countries. They provide about 10% of the total dietary protein consumed in the world,” explains George.
The Importance of pulses – Let’s Break it Down
Let’s look at the nutritional benefits of some of the most common pulses per 100 g and also some recipes that use pulses in exciting ways.
Split Peas 25 g protein | 1,2 g fat | 60 g carbs
Kidney Beans 24 g protein | 0,8 g fat | 60 g carbs
Black Beans 21 g protein | 0,9 g fat | 63 g carbs
Pinto Beans Protein 21 g protein | 1,2 g fat | 63 g carbs
Lentils 9 g protein | 0,4 fat | 20 g carbs
Chickpeas 19 g protein | 6 g fat | 61 g carbs
Inspired? Here are some recipes that use pulses in delicious ways.
Lentils are an excellent natural source of folate and manganese and so if your preggies, be sure to add plenty to your diet!
Baby Aubergines with Lentils, Pomegranate and Chevin
A delish plant-based meal with Middle Eastern inspiration.
Herby Lentil Salad
An easy salad to prepare that is packed with herby flavour.
Full of fibre, minerals and protein, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are seriously versatile.
Spiced Pumpkin and Chickpea Pot
A warming and delicious one-pot wonder.
Broccoli and Chickpea Bhajis
Start off an Indian-inspired meal with these tasty classics.
Use your chickpea brine to make aquafaba vegan mayonnaise.