Foodies Take Notice: 2016 is the Year of the Pulse

Posted Friday, Mar 4, 2016

The often overlooked pulse has taken centre stage in the food world. The UN General Assembly has declared 2016 the year of the pulse. Pulses are part of the legume family; specifically the dried seed - lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans are a few examples. They were some of the first plants to be cultivated by ancient man, and in modern times they still have a lot to offer. The pulse is promising for both human health, and the health of the planet.

Studies have shown that when included regularly in your diet, pulses can be preventative for several diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. They have also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, and reduce blood pressure. Most varieties of pulses are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, and provide several necessary vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and a variety of B vitamins. When it comes to measuring nutrient per acre of crop, pulses often come out on top. They are also a good source of protein. Lentils, for example, have 18 grams of protein per cup.

Ecologically, pulses are quite extraordinary plants. Much like legumes, pulses are nitrogen-fixing crops that contribute to improved soil health and sustainable agricultural practices. Unlike most plants, in the early half of the growing season pulses will convert energy from the sun and the air and produce nitrogen-rich caches in their root nodules. In turn, any nitrogen that is unused by the plant enriches the soil making it more fertile for future crops. 

 

 

  

 

3 types of lentil
Studies have shown that lentils are among the lowest foodstuffs for CO2 emissions.

Conventionally grown, pulses are a low carbon-footprint food, and use half the non-renewable energy inputs as other crops. When grown organically, or on small bio-diverse farms, the environmental benefits are exponentially better. The positive bio-chemical soil composition that pulses leave behind means that with good crop rotation, pulses provide other crops with protection against disease causing bacteria and fungi without the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

 Pulses also leave behind a relatively low water footprint. When it comes to comparing the water footprint per gram of protein, milk, eggs, and chicken meat requires 1.5 times more fresh water than pulses to produce, and beef requires 6 times more. 

The year of the pulse will have a huge benefit on Canadian agriculture. Canadian farmers account for more than a third of the pulses grown worldwide each year. Most of these pulses are grown right here on the Prairies - with Saskatchewan growing 80% of Canada’s pulses, and Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario filling in the rest.  

Sunnyside Natural Market Provides several dried organic pulses in our bulk section. Don't be afraid to get creative with pulses. They can be much more than pea soup or bean salad - although these dishes are a great use of pulses too! Check out this recipe for a simple, but delicious snack using lentils.  

 

 

Matt Gigg Posted Mar 4, 2016