Pulses could be a key player in helping us get out of the looming environmental and health crisis.
You may not be familiar with the term pulse, but you are familiar with the food. Pulses include lentils, dried peas and dried beans. Pulses are dried seeds and are a subset of legumes which includes any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. Legumes have a unique ability to absorb nitrogen from the air and manufacture their own protein. Nitrogenous fertilizers can be reduced when growing legumes, making them comparatively advantageous over other crops. And of course, when compared to animal farming, there is a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gasses and an obvious environmental advantage.
Let’s turn our attention to the health benefits of dietary pulses.
Protein: Pulses contain more protein than most plants. Pulses and whole grains when consumed together provide all the essential amino acids necessary for human health. If you are a vegetarian, it is really advantageous to have pulses in your diet. But even if you are not a vegetarian, you can reduce the amount of protein that you eat from animal sources and eat more pulses for an overall healthier diet.
Minerals: Minerals are essential to our health – from forming part of our bones, carrying oxygen in our blood or being incorporated in enzymatic processes in our cells. Minerals are an essential part of all living systems and so we consume them in all our foods. Pulses happen to contain proportionally higher amounts of minerals than many other foods.
Fiber: My favorite reason for including pulses in the diet is to increase fiber intake. In my opinion dietary fiber is the most under-appreciated factor in a healthy diet. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream after consuming a meal which helps to maintain insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes. Fiber improves bowel regularity. Fiber feeds the microbiome which produces essential nutrients to our health. One essential by-product of fiber fermentation in our gut is butyrate. Butyrate feeds our colon cells thereby maintaining the integrity of the gut. Butyrate is also a natural cholesterol modulator.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog explaining the down sides of eating pulses!