Would you believe me if I told you that being a part of a global initiative for a better future started in the grocery store? Maybe you didn’t know that your food choices directly impact environmental and economic sustainability. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. And no, I am not talking about your heart rate…
Pulses belong to the legume family and are usually only the dried portion of the seed. Dried beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are all extremely popular pulses that have been used since 7000-8000 B.C.! Popular dishes made with pulses include chili, baked beans, daal, and falafel. Yum!
So why are pulses such a big deal? Pulses are a recognized superfood loaded with protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, making them a staple food in diets all over the world! Besides their awesome health benefits, pulses are super affordable and an excellent alternative to animal protein. Additionally, farmers are able to both sell and eat their harvest, which creates stable food sources for millions of people! And best of all, pulses have an extremely long shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about them expiring.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you to hop onto the pulse bandwagon, sit tight… Pulses are also combating climate change by reducing carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions! How? Pulses uniquely fix nitrogen into the soil to help boost farmland productivity and fertility, which helps farmers use less synthetic fertilizers. Another cool fact: pulses help lower atmospheric carbon levels by putting carbon back into the soil at faster rates than other crops.
Growing pulses allows farmers to use dynamic farming techniques to help reduce soil erosion, biodiversity shortages, pests, and plant diseases. This promotes the soil health of many areas to aide farmers in growing other types of crops.
Can you believe that producing approximately 2 pounds of chicken would take almost 90 times as much water as it would to produce the same amount of pulses? Pulses are incredibly water-efficient! Farmers have also found that pulses are astonishingly adaptable to environmental pressures such as drought, which is monumental for drier regions of the world!
Pulses are consumed in developing areas of the world three times as much than industrialized areas. No wonder the FAO has decided to make pulses center stage this year!
Use 2016 to be more than a consumer. Be a supporter of a sustainable future that supports health, livelihoods of farmers, and environmental friendliness.
Take the pledge to eat more pulses at https://pulsepledge.com/, where you can also find monthly recipes and tips.
Jackie Parker is currently a junior nutritional sciences student on the dietetics track at Texas A&M University.