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Five reasons to eat pulses 

Pulses have been a staple in the human diet for centuries. Today, their importance goes beyond diet, as they contribute to creating sustainable food systems and bring us closer to the goal of zero hunger.  

Back in 2016, the FAO celebrated the International Year of Pulses (IYP), declared by the 68th UN General Assembly with this objective in mind. The celebration of the IYP helped to underscore the role that pulses play in sustainable food production, improved food security and nutrition.  

Given the importance of this year and the conclusions drawn about pulses, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/73/251, designated 10th February as World Pulses Day. 

What are the benefits of pulses? 

 According to the report Nutritious seeds for a sustainable futurepulses: 

1.- Have excellent nutritional value  

Nowadays, either by taking in too much, with global obesity affecting more than 500 million people in the world, or too little, with 800 million people going hungry in the world, pulses are the perfect solution. Low in fat and high in fibre, they are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals and are excellent antioxidants that counteract our natural ageing processes 

 They also contain twice as much protein as whole grain cereals and three times as much as rice, as well as having key minerals. They give us a feeling of satietyand also help to stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels 

2.- Prevent disease 

Pulses are rich in bioactive properties such as phytochemicals and antioxidants that help to prevent diseases such as breast and prostate cancer. Phytoestrogens are also known for preventing cognitive decline, reducing menopausal symptoms and promoting bone health 

 Experts have highlighted that regular consumption of pulses helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, pulses support the central nervous system thanks to their folate content.  

 3.-Promote soil biodiversity 

Pulses can biologically fix nitrogen in the soil, which has a direct and positive impact on soil biodiversity. In plantations, soil microbes such as Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium are activated and boost soil fertility. Rhizobium infects the root hairs of the leguminous plants, causing nodules to develop that become small nitrogen factories perched placed on the pulse roots. Inside the nodules, Rhizobium goes to work, converting atmospheric nitrogen to nitrogen and creating healthy soil that promotes plant growth.   

 Activating soil bacteria to fix nitrogen means that the plant requires much less nitrogen fertiliser. By producing their own fixed nitrogen in the soil, pulses contribute to higher yields in subsequent crop rotations, while also boosting soil fertility which, in turn, helps to decrease the carbon footprint of future crops. 

 4.-Help prevent food waste

Experts estimate that more than a third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. However, pulses, once stored in airtight containers, can last for months or even years without losing their nutritional value. Therefore, the rate at which pulses are lost prior to meal preparation is very low.   

 All parts of pulses can be used, which means zero waste. Legume pods feed people and other parts are used for animal feed. Even if they are left in the fields, they provide food for animals. 

5- Require less water  

Water is a precious, limited resource. Pulses, according to the report Nutritious seeds for a sustainable future, need 20 times less water than animal products. Therefore, in industrial countries, switching towards a vegetarian diet could reduce their food-related water footprint by 36%.  

Therefore, according to the FAO:

  • 1,250 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kg of lentils,  
  • 1,325 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kg of chicken,  
  • 5,520 litres of water are required to produce 1 kg of lamb and  
  • 13,000 litres of water are required to produce 1 kg of beef.  

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