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Pulses: good for you and good for the planet

 

Baked beans, hummus, falafels, soups, stews, curries, tacos, dals. All these foods have one main ingredient in common – pulses, the botanical name for dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. There are many new and innovative ways to use these humble ingredients to make great tasting, affordable and healthy meals.

For instance, you could try green banana and beluga lentil fritters with coconut salsa and chilli coulis. Or tempt your taste buds with a broad bean and chickpea falafel with sprouted lentil tabbouleh and schoog (spicy Yemenite relish). The opportunities are endless!

6 January marked the official UK launch of the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses. Millions joined together around the globe to raise awareness of the benefits of Pulses at celebratory Pulse Feast events, in 141 different locations across the world. 20.8 million people took part through social media in celebrating the official launch.

Why celebrate Pulses in 2016?

The United Nations has declared 2016 as The International Year of Pulses (IYoP) to draw attention to the nutritional power of these foods. They’re healthy, nutritious, affordable and sustainable, and with a renewed focus on these benefits, they are pinned to become the new go-to staple for chefs, nutritionists, and all those who want to minimise their impact on the environment in 2016.

“Society today faces many challenges: diabetes, global warming, obesity, water scarcity, cardiovascular disease, biodiversity, nutrient deficiency, nitrogen depletion, cancer (and the list goes on). In each case, pulses are part of the solution. They are the golden thread woven through the fabric of the more balanced and sustainable world we all wish to see” said Milan Shah of IYP UK Promotion Group.

Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Butter beans (© Jenny Chandler) Spicy Roast Cauliflower with Butter beans (© Jenny Chandler)

Why are Pulses good for the planet?

The growing interest in many countries with flexitarianism (a plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat product) and the recent comments by Arnold Schwarzenegger highlight the challenge faced by those concerned to make their diets match their sustainability and climate change ethics.

Pulses have a number of environmental positives: they use less water than other protein sources, less fertilizer and have a low carbon footprint. Pulses already play an important role in Food Security in the Developing world, as well as Pulses being a cornerstone ingredient in Humanitarian Food Aid.

Beans cultivation (Ethiopia) (© IYP) Pulses have a low carbon footprint. Beans cultivation (Ethiopia) (© IYP)

Why are Pulses good for health and nutrition?

One of the reasons that 2016 has been declared as the International Year of Pulses is that Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe. They can help improve human health, including diabetes prevention and control, reductions in heart disease and cholesterol, and anaemia prevention. Pulses have a low glycaemic index and can help combat obesity.

In fact, a recent North American study has shown that eating a cup of pulses every day (circa 130g) can reduce ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol by five percent thereby lowering the risk of heart disease.

Several chefs, food celebrities and organisations around the globe are already supporting the International Year of Pulses, including Chef Jenny Chandler (@jennychandleruk), the Eating Better Alliance and of course, WWF-UK.

How do I get involved in the International Year of Pulses?

From a staple ingredient to a gourmet dish, pulses are a healthy and affordable way to expand your recipe repertoire. The International Year of Pulses is supporting WWF’s Earth Hour on Saturday 19 March. To celebrate our beautiful planet, think about hosting a candle-lit dinner and try one of our amazing recipes, available at http://earthhour.wwf.org.uk/theme/recipes/

For more information on events taking place throughout the year, recipe inspiration or to take the Pulse Pledge, visit www.Pulses.Org. If you create any pulse based recipes at home, we’d love for you to share them on this blog, Instagram (@lovepulses) and Twitter (@LovePulses). Don’t forget to include @wwf_uk

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