Celebrating pulses, a global super food

WASHINGTON — The United Nations has designated 2016 the International Year of Pulses. The goal is to raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits of pulses — or, as we more commonly know them, dried beans, peas and lentils.

Lean Plate Club blogger Sally Squires says this recognition is significant because it will demonstrate how this superfood can play a major role in the battle against two global food problems.

“The U.N. says pulses can help end worldwide hunger and obesity, and they’re good for the planet,” Squires said.

Pulses also are good for soil health, the U.N. says, because they help fix nitrogen in the soil, leaving farmers less dependent on synthetic fertilizers. Planting beans in rotation with other crops helps boost the yield of the other crops as well.

Squires said pulses are excellent nutritionally.

“They’re rich in iron; they’re low in fat and they’re loaded with fiber. And they’re a perfectly balanced protein that’s only pennies per serving.

“All of these reasons combined helps explain why experts think that dried beans can help address this double-edged sword of hunger and obesity,” Squires added.

The U.N. has released a colorful new book featuring recipes from 10 internationally acclaimed chefs showing how peas, beans, lentils and legumes are used in cultures all over the world. “Pulses: Nutritious Seeds For a Sustainable Future” explains not only their nutritional and health benefits, but also what to look for when buying them, how to grow them yourself and cooking secrets to prepare them.

Squires said that as many Americans increase their understanding of pulses and their benefits, we may also begin to shift our thinking about pulses from being side dishes to pulses becoming the main course.

“Right now, the favorite beans among Americans are pinto beans and black beans,” Squires said. “The bean that has fallen out of favor with Americans is lima beans.”

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