What are Pulses?
Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Pulses are annual crops that yield between one and 12 grains or seeds. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely as dry grains, which differentiates them from other vegetable crops that are harvested while still green.
Pulses are healthy, nutritious and easy to cook with. Growing pulses also promotes sustainable agriculture, as pulse crops help decrease greenhouse gases, increase soil health, and use less water than other crops.
Pulses are a low carbon footprint food
Pulses utilize soil bacteria to draw nitrogen from the air. This natural process replaces the need to add nitrogen fertilizers in pulse crops, which means pulses use half the energy inputs of other crops.When soil is fertilized with nitrogen in the form of manure, fertilizer, or crop residue, soil micro-organisms convert some of this nitrogen into nitrous oxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) and represents around 46% of the greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture.
Pulses are an important plant-based source of protein
Many diets around the world rely on pulses as a source of protein. The amount of protein in beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas is 2-3 times the levels found in cereal grains like wheat, rice, quinoa, oats, barley, and corn. For example, eating just ½ cup of lentils provides the same amount of protein as 1 cup of quinoa or 2 cups of rice or corn. Compared to animal and many other plant-based sources of protein, pulses are a more affordable and sustainable protein source.
All proteins are created from twenty different amino acid building blocks. Nine of these amino acids cannot be produced by the body and are called “essential” because they must come from foods we eat. Most plant proteins lack at least one essential amino acid. However, when two or more plant-based sources of protein are combined, each food can provide the essential amino acid(s) that the complementary food(s) is missing. Eating protein from a variety of sources, from both plant and animal sources, ensures the body receives all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health.
Pulses are an excellent source of dietary fiber and other complex carbohydrates
One cup of cooked pulses gives you more than half the amount of fiber you need for the entire day. Pulses also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can help manage body weight, blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber on the other hand, assists with digestion and regularity. Pulses also contain resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that behaves like fiber in the body; and has been shown have similar health benefits such as reduced circulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as improved gut health.
Why are pulses so effective?
- Pulses have a low glycemic index value, making people feel full and less likely to overeat
- Protein in pulses stimulates gastric hormones that cause the feeling of fullness
- Fiber in pulses increases chewing time and delays gastric emptying, reducing food intake.