Pulses not only taste delicious, they’re also a great choice for both your body and the environment. These humble seeds boast substantial health benefits, and they are one of the most economical and sustainable sources of food. Take a look at an extract from the brilliant cookbook, Power Pulses, to learn more.
Pulses not only taste delicious, they’re also a great choice for both your body and the environment. These humble seeds boast substantial health benefits, and they are one of the most economical and sustainable sources of food.
They're Good for You
High in essential vitamins and minerals but low in fat, pulses are widely considered to be a superfood that can fight disease and contribute to a long, healthy life. Pulses are particularly good sources of fibre and protein, a pairing that provides sustained energy but keeps cholesterol levels low.
Beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils contain between 20 and 25 per cent protein by weight, much more than many other plant-based protein sources, such as spinach and quinoa. This makes them an attractive alternative to meat-based proteins, particularly for vegans and vegetarians.
Pulses are also rich in key minerals like iron, potassium, zinc, and manganese, all of which play important roles in maintaining health.
- Preserve heart health. Cholesterol-free and low in fat, pulses reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Boost energy. Pulses are rich in iron, which helps transport oxygen in your bloodstream, rejuvenating your cells and your body.
- Build strong bones. Dense in manganese and other important nutrients, pulses promote healthy bone structure.
- Maintain the gut. Pulses are fibre-packed and high in prebiotics, your body’s natural digestive regulators.
- Improve brain function. High in folic acid, pulses can improve mental and emotional health.
- Aid weight loss. Pulses contain amino acids that boost metabolism, as well as soluble fibre to make you feel fuller for longer.
- Control diabetes. Complex carbohydrates and a low Glycaemic Index provide steady glucose release to regulate insulin in the blood.
They're Good for the Planet
Not just good for your body, pulses are good for everybody. Kilogram for kilogram, they can feed more people than meat and require just a fraction of the resources required to raise livestock. Growing pulses also enriches the soil, improving crop yield.
Greater Water Efficiency
Pulse crops such as lentils and chickpeas are well adapted to semi-arid climates and are more drought-tolerant than other crops, so they require less water than other plants and livestock. They also use water differently from other crops, drawing from the shallow depth of the soil and leaving the deeper-down water in place for the next year’s growth.
Water used to produce one kilogram
Pulses - 74 litres | Soya beans - 371 litres | Chicken - 800 litres | Pork - 1,298 litres | Beef - 3,195 litres
Increased Food Security
For many people, regular access to meat, dairy, and fish can be cost prohibitive. Pulses provide a safe and nutritious food at a low cost, and their long shelf life means they can be stored for months without losing nutritional value, reducing food waste.
Especially in developing countries, pulses help lift farmers out of rural poverty. Pulses
can command prices two to three times higher than cereal crops, and their processing provides local job opportunities.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
It takes energy to produce food, and that energy generates greenhouse gas emissions. But pulses are more eco-friendly than other foods because they require no nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilizer uses energy-intensive production processes and emits nitrous oxide, which has nearly 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Higher Crop Yields
Farmers all around the world know how important pulses are to their sustainable farming systems. Unlike most crops, pulses extract nitrogen from the air around them and fix it to the soil, leaving behind nitrogenrich residues and other compounds that help fight disease and insects. This enriches the soil, making it possible for the next crop in rotation to produce higher yields.
For inspiration on how to use pulses in your cooking, check out the Power Pulses cookbook.