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Pulses: The Heroes of Nutrition & Agricultural Sustainability


This blog post was written by Amy R. Beaudreault, PhD, University of California, Director of Nutrition and Health, World Food Center, and was originally published on SecureNutrition.

As 2016 comes to a close, so does the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses. The term pulses has come to be seen as the “little beans with big opportunities,” thanks to the global events and outreach throughout the year that have promoted the importance of pulses in agriculture and nutrition. Yet, the need to build awareness about the benefits of pulses and pulse research remains high. 

In laymen’s terms, most people refer to pulses as beans, but in fact they are a type of legume. Legumes are plants that have fruit enclosed in a pod and are the third largest family of flowering plants. More than 13,000 species of legumes exist, grouped into three subsets: soybeans and peanuts; pulses; and fresh peas and fresh beans. Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family and they represent 12 crops of grain legumes, which include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils. 

Through a nutritional lens, pulses are high in fiber and protein, low in fat, and contain various vitamins (e.g., zinc, folate, magnesium, and iron) and amino acids. Research suggests that pulse-based supplements can reduce stunting in high-risk children because of the protein and micronutrients they deliver to pregnant and nursing women. In addition, pulses may promote a healthy gut microbiome because of the resistant starches they contain. Enteropathy, or inflammation of the intestinal lining, can decrease nutrient absorption and contribute to stunting. Emerging evidence is looking at whether increased pulse consumption in undernourished children could support the gut microbiome and prevent enteropathy.


Video: Focus areas in pulses


By Prof. Kadambot H.M. Siddique, Hackett Professor of Agriculture Chair and Director, The UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, Perth.

Pulses play an important role in farming systems and are good for health. Their agronomic practices need to be translated for resource-poor farmers. Three areas call for greater attention: a socio-economic analysis of why pulses are not adopted more, exploring their genetic potential and educating the public about their importance.


Everything You Need to Know About Lentils


This blog post was written by Kate Morin, and originally published on Fix.com.

They’re the world’s oldest cultivated legume, so it’s no surprise that lentils have become a staple across the globe – from India to the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

Like beans, lentils add a great high-fiber and high-protein element to many meals. Because of their size, lentils cook much more quickly than dried beans and do not have to be soaked before cooking. They are extremely versatile and inexpensive, which makes them an accessible form of high-quality protein. Let’s take a closer look at this convenient staple.

Preparation, Cooking, and Storage

Lentils are sold in two forms: canned and dried. While canned are good for ready-to-eat uses such as a quick salad or side dish, the dried version works well for soups and stews, salads, and sides. A bag of dried lentils can really last forever, but they are best used within a year of purchase (or by the date printed on the package). Once the bag is opened, store any remaining lentils in an airtight container and keep them in a cool, dry place.

One benefit of lentils is that they can be cooked in less than an hour. While it seems like an unnecessary step, don’t skip rinsing your lentils and sifting through them before cooking to remove any stones or debris. It is rare to find stones, but it does happen. When cooking, treat lentils more like pasta than rice – the lentils do not need to absorb every bit of cooking liquid the way rice does, but you also don’t need to completely flood the lentils like you would pasta. As a general rule, one cup of dried lentils yields two to two-and-a-half cups of cooked lentils.

Because of their rather delicate, earthy flavor, lentils work well in a variety of dishes and in almost any type of cuisine. The best time to add flavor to lentils is during the cooking process. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Adding half an onion (peeled), a few cloves of crushed garlic, a bundle of herbs, or a bay leaf to the cooking liquid and a pinch of salt gives lentils plenty of flavor, especially when they’re the base for a salad or side dish.


Importancia de las legumbres y consumo en España


This blog post was written by Susana del Pozo de la Calle, pharmacy graduate and PhD at UCM, Spain, Department of Nutrition and Food Science I, and originally published on the blog Alimentación Activa.

Siempre he pensado que las legumbres son un grupo de alimentos algo olvidados, hablábamos de las virtudes de otros muchos componentes de la dieta mediterránea y siempre las dejábamos de lado, pero por fin este es el año de las legumbres, la ONU (Organización de las Naciones Unidas) ha declarado 2016 como el Año Internacional de las Legumbres.


Este grupo, junto con el de los cereales, son de los primeros alimentos que aprendieron a cultivarse en el mundo. Su origen data del Neolítico cuando nace la agricultura. Como curiosidad os puedo decir que en las pirámides egipcias se encontraron lentejas y guisantes de más de 7000 años y en los yacimientos arqueológicos de México aparecieron restos de harina de legumbres de más de 6000 años.

Composición nutricional

Nutricionalmente, me parece un grupo de alimentos muy interesante por distintas razones. Son los alimentos, de origen vegetal, con un mayor contenido proteico, además la proteína que contienen es de muy buena calidad y cuando se consumen junto a cereales la calidad de la proteína es semejante a la de las carnes. Este dato siempre me ha encantado, porque mi abuela, sin conocimientos de nutrición ya cocinaba “lentejas con arroz”, lo que demuestra que la cultura gastronómica tradicional es “muy sabia”. Pero, además, son especialmente ricas en hidratos de carbono complejos, con un bajo índice glucémico. Por tanto, es un grupo de alimentos a tener en cuenta en la dieta de personas que padezcan diabetes. Contienen fibra soluble e insoluble y su contenido en grasa es muy bajo, con la excepción de soja, cacahuetes y altramuces.

También aportan minerales como: calcio, hierro, magnesio, fósforo, zinc, potasio y, vitaminas como tiamina, riboflavina y ácido fólico, esta última especialmente en los garbanzos. Por último son ricas en antioxidantes y otros componentes bioactivos.

Por último, es importante resaltar que se pueden almacenar durante mucho tiempo (meses) sin que pierdan su valor nutricional.

Sólo con este pequeño resumen, ya se puede ver la importancia de estos alimentos en la dieta. Por ello, se recomienda consumir de 2 a 3 raciones de legumbres por semana. Cuando hablamos de ración, en el caso de las legumbres, nos referimos aproximadamente a 70 g del alimento crudo para un adulto.


Video: Don’t ignore aflatoxin contamination in pulses


By Anthony Wenndt, PhD scholar (Fungal biology), Cornell University, USA.

Research on contamination by aflatoxin and other mycotoxins has been concentrated in cereal grains, ignoring pulses, vegetables and fruits. Consumed daily by millions, pulses do contain a small concentration of mycotoxins, which when consumed regularly can lead to health issues in the long run. Research must therefore focus on pulses too and also factor in the entire food system and value chain from field to market and the pantry as well as social class, geography and storage conditions.


From six blind men to three wise kings...to Pulse Feast 2017


This blog post was written by Milan Shah and originally published on LinkedIn.

Teaching my grandmother to suck eggs is not an activity in which I am practiced, being denied the opportunity because she will not touch them, resting somewhere on the spectrum between a vegetarian and a vegan. As a Jain, she adheres to the principle of ahimsa (अहिंसा) and her diet reflects this unwillingness to harm or injure other beings. Anekāntavāda (अनेकान्तवाद) is another key Jain tenet, reflecting the “many-sidedness” of truth and reality. My grandmother used to explain it to me by the ancient parable of the elephant, which still remains a valuable pedagogical tool on multi-perspectivity in a variety of contexts.

Six blind men were asked by their king to determine what an elephant was, by feeling the creature’s body. The blind man who felt the leg said the animal was like a pillar; the one who felt the tail said the creature was like a rope; the one who felt the trunk said the animal was like a tree branch and so on. Each blind man claimed that only his description was true, based on what he had felt, and all the other ones had to be false. “But you are all right and you are all wrong” interrupted the wise king “for you only had knowledge of a part, but you are disputing about the whole - you have all described a different aspect of a single creature”.

Society today faces many challenges: : diabetes, climate change, obesity, water scarcity, cardiovascular disease, biodiversity, nutrient deficiency, nitrogen depletion, stunting, food waste, cancer.


Expanding our Vocabulary, Gardens, Diet and Celebrations


This blog post was written by Patrice Powers-Barker (Family and Consumer Sciences) and Amy Stone (Agriculture and Natural Resources), Extension Educators, Ohio State University Extension, Lucas County

In the Midwest region of the United States of America, located on the western basin of Lake Erie, Lucas County Ohio is home to over 436,000 people. Our rural farmers traditionally corn, soybeans and wheat. Both rural and urban farmers, as well as home and community gardeners grow a variety of vegetables. Those cool-season and warm-season vegetables grow throughout the spring and summer as well as in late fall and early winter with the assistance of season extenders.

In our community it is not unusual to find pulses as an ingredient in household and restaurant dishes such as soups or chili, baked beans, refried beans, hummus or black-eyed peas. Although we might serve them as part of a meal we don’t tend to use them as the main dish. The most common place to purchase pulses is at the grocery store, either in cans or in bags. In Lucas County vegetable gardens, pulses are not as common as other vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes or greens.

The very first thing the United Nations 2016 International Year of Pulses presented to us was a new vocabulary word. Many recognize the food items “dried beans, peas and lentils” but “pulses” was a new way to condense those five words. The Ohio State University (OSU) Extension office staff in Lucas County (Cooperative Extension) read about the 2016 International Year of the Pulses and appreciated the online resources to make the theme applicable for our county. We share our modest story as a way to say “Thank You” to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as partners with the UN International Year of Pulses Steering Committee.


The pied piper of pulses


This blog post was written by Caitlin Rockett and originally published on Boulder Weekly

Ron Pickarski remembers the first time he made tempeh. It was 1976, and packaged meat substitutes were not only absent from grocery stores, they were, quite frankly, damn-near unheard of.

He was a freshly minted vegan (also an anomaly at the time) and, almost inversely, a classically trained chef certified in meat cutting.

He was also a Franciscan monk at the time. So it was in the kitchen of a monastery in Michigan where he cooked soybeans, shelled them, mixed them with a starter kit from a natural food store, pressed them into a pan and placed them in a warm oven to ferment overnight.

“I came back the next morning and it was just loaded with this white mold,” Pickarski says. “It did not look like something you’d want to eat.”

But sauté and eat it he did — and it was “unbelievably delicious.”


Lentejas del tiempo olvidado


This blog post was written by Pamela Torres K.

En Chile hay lentejas todo el año en el supermercado. Selladas, impecables, homogéneas en tamaño y color. Cuesta imaginar que han viajado 10.000 km para llegar ahí y lucir tan perfectas.

Pero en las tierras chilenas se cultivan lentejas también; lentejas que no tendrían que viajar tanto para llegar a las repisas de los supermercados. Lentejas de tiempos olvidados.

La señora Sonia y sus hijos practican la agricultura familiar campesina. Este verano la visitamos más de una vez, ansiosas por tener sus lentejas locales, frescas y sabrosas. En la primera visita nos dijo:

“¡Noooo pues! ¡¿Cómo le voy a tener las lentejas ahora?! ¿Si no ve que está nublado? Hay que esperar que salga el sol para que se sequen las plantas”.

Por suerte el sol salió y las matas se secaron.

Volvimos a ir.

“Nooo…¡que no ve que no ha habido viento! ¡¿Cómo vamos a aventar las lentejas si no hay viento?!”.

Por suerte corrió el viento que se llevó la paja y dejó el grano.

Las probamos. Son suaves, de color verdoso (y no café como las del supermercado); recién cosechadas.

Ahora que ha pasado la cosecha, hay que preparar la tierra para la nueva siembra. Hace algunos días hablamos con la señora Sonia. Ella se ríe de nosotras, mujeres de ciudad, que pareciéramos no haber visto los cielos en años.

“Noooo, si ha llovido re mucho por acá… ¡todavía no podemos pasar el arado!”

Ya pasará la lluvia; ya se trabajará la tierra.

Ya llegará un nuevo verano con sol para secar y viento para limpiar.


My pulses necklaces


This blog post was written by Paola Scarsi, Consigliere Nazionale Ordine dei Giornalisti. 

The idea was to combine aesthetics and decoration with my love for nature. ‘’Creative recycling”, that’s how I like to define it. I am a journalist, lent – or better, returned – to creativity.  I have always loved the art of “natural” recycling which led me to transform stones, shells and wooden pieces into necklaces, earrings, pendants and many other sorts of ornaments. 

For this particular collection of natural, bio-ecological necklaces – as well as pendants, earrings and bracelets – I drew inspiration from a calendar my son Matteo gave me as a Christmas present. It shows a photograph of exotic markets with bags full of colorful spices for each month: the same amazing markets photographed in the book "Pulses: nutrition seeds for a sustainable future". 

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