2016 International Year of Pulses: Good for You & Good for the Environment!

 

2016 has officially been declared the
International Year of Pulses (IYP).

So what does that mean?

Official Logo by Thomas CizauskasI’m glad you asked.

It has nothing to do with your blood pressure or your heart beat however, the benefits of pulses such as Chickpeas, Faba and Broad beans, Field peas, Lentils, Lupins and Mung beans have many health benefits. In fact it may surprise you to learn that peanuts also fall into the pulse category even though many believe it to be a nut.

Pulses belong to the grain family known as legumes. They are an important source of nutrition throughout the world but unfortunately not commonly considered to be a large part of the typical Western diet, unless of course you have a largely vegetarian or vegan based diet. Truth is, we should be eating more of them as pulses are loaded with good things such as fibre, protein and essential nutrients such as potassium, folate and vitamin B. Soy beans are also one of only a few plant foods to provide all essential amino acids.

Image 108(c) copyThe health benefits of pulses to the diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, by lowering cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers blood pressure. All of which is important for a healthy heart. They are also a lower-glycemic index food, which means an inclusion of pulses in your diet will help you to manage your blood sugar and lessen the risk of diabetes. Folate, which is a good source of vitamin B helps to produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid growth and thus helpful for mothers during pregnancy and for children during growth spurts. Vitamin B basically converts food into fuel, allowing us to remain energised throughout the day and is also great for helping reduce your stress levels.

It’s no surprise then that pulses are looked upon as the future of food but this is also because they are seen as a sustainable food trend for coming decades, and this is where the story gets interesting in terms of what this means for the environment. Pulses are ‘good’ for the environment. They fix their own nitrogen needs, use less water and are good for soils. They also have less impact as a protein source than livestock and are also cheaper to produce. Given these properties, it is also easy to see why they are a vital and easily produced food source for developing countries.

Back in January of this year, around the world, people took the ‘Pulse Pledge’ and many organised ‘Pulse Feasts’ to kick off the yearlong event. There are however, still many other pulse food events taking place all around the country during the year in which to partake or be involved in, from food festivals to cooking demonstrations, and farming expos. You may even want to host your own!

A photo and video competition was also launched with the support of Pulse Australia to help showcase Australian’s pulse growers’ stories from the 2015-16 growing season. Check out this entry from Ash Teasdale, from Rupanyup in the Victorian Wimmera.

There is still time for students to participate in another competition with science and art projects featuring pulses. The Hermitage Plant Science Competition is still open from now until June 24th, 2016.

If you’re after some Pulse recipes, why not try the winner of the Australian IYP Signature Dish submitted by Ms Alison Victor from WA. Check out her recipe for Quinoa, Black Lentil & Roasted Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate in Apple Cider Vinegar, along with recipes submitted by other talented entrants.

Now you have plenty of incentive to include more pulses in your diet, devote time to growing your own small patch of pulses in the back garden or via pots on the balcony. If you’re really limited for space, why not invest in a bean sprouting kit for the kitchen? All you need is water and some pulse seeds and in three days you’ll have sprouts for a salad sandwich or Mung Beans for the stirfry! Then you can really say you’ve ‘Bean there and done that!

For more information and details of events on the International Year of Pulses check out the websites for both Pulse Australia and Global Pulse Confederation.

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*Article also featured on Hills to Headlands magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

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