2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO. You might be wondering what are pulses and why they’re healthy. The word pulses come from the Latin word puls which means thick, meal, or mush. While that doesn’t sound tasty, pulses actually are a subgroup of the legume family that includes edible beans, dried peas, chickpeas, and lentils which can be prepared in many delicious ways.
Though exact amounts differ depending on the specific variety, pulses in general are rich in fiber, protein, and iron along with a few other minerals and vitamins. Foods rich in fiber and protein can help with feeling fuller longer while iron helps with lowering the chance of iron-deficiency anemia. To help the body better absorb iron in pulses, enjoy them with foods rich in vitamin C such as tomatoes and red bell peppers or finish the meal with strawberries or kiwi fruit. Dried beans, peas, and lentils are very inexpensive but can take some time to cook. If you’re tight on time, canned versions aren’t as inexpensive but are still a nutritious option if you choose those with no salt added or labeled low sodium.
Good for the Body and the Earth
Besides being a nutrition powerhouse, pulses also have a positive environmental impact. For starters, they require significantly less water to grow than raising livestock. By some estimates, it takes about 10 times less water to produce a pound of pulses as it does for a pound of chicken and about 45 times less water compared to beef production. Additionally, legumes have nitrogen-fixing properties which can enhance nutrients in the soil without using additional fertilizer. All this means more fertile soil for increased farmland productivity.
For ideas on how to enjoy beans and lentils, check out these recipes from Meatless Monday!