National dietary guidelines recommend pulses as part of a healthy diet. Studies have shown that people who eat at least ½ cup of pulses per day have higher intakes of fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, folate, zinc, iron, and magnesium as well as lower intakes of total and saturated fat.
Many diets around the world rely on pulses as a source of protein. The amount of protein in beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas is 2-3 times the levels found in cereal grains like wheat, rice, quinoa, oats, barley, and corn. For example, eating just ½ cup of lentils provides the same amount of protein as 1 cup of quinoa or 2 cups of rice or corn. Compared to animal and many other plant based sources of protein, pulses are a more affordable and sustainable protein source. Let’s look into role of pulses in Nutritional security…
“Pulses are rich in proteins and found to be main source of protein to vegetarian people of India. It is second important constituent of Indian diet after cereals“
10 Nutritional facts that You should know about Pulses
- According to FAO pulses are only legumes with dry, edible seeds, with low fat content, are classified as pulses. FAO does not consider pulses legume species used as vegetables (e.g., green peas, green beans), for oil extraction (e.g., soybean, groundnut) and for sowing purposes (e.g., clover, alfalfa).
- With a low glycemic index, low fat and high fibre content, pulses are suitable for people with diabetes. Pulses increase satiety and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels by reducing spikes after eating and improving insulin resistance making pulses an ideal food for weight management.
- Pulses may reduce the risks of coronary heart disease. They are high in dietary fibre, which is well known for reducing LDL (Low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, a recognized risk factor in coronary heart disease.
- Fibre content in pulses binds toxins and cholesterol in the gut removing them from the body. Increases stool volume and transit.
- Pulses are good sources of vitamins, such as folate, which reduces the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) like Spina bifida in newborn babies.
- High iron content of pulses makes them a potent food for preventing iron deficiency anemia in women and children especially when combined with food containing vitamin C to improve iron absorption.
- The protein quality of vegetarian diets and plant-based diets is significantly improved when pulses are eaten together with cereals.
- Pulses are rich in bioactive compounds such as phytochemicals and antioxidants that may contain anti-cancer properties.
- Pulses promote bone health. Phytoestrogens may also prevent cognitive decline and reduce menopausal symptoms.
- On understanding the ongoing nutritional crisis 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been nominated to facilitate the implementation of the Year in collaboration with Governments, relevant organizations, non-governmental organizations and all other relevant stakeholders.
Compiled by Pavithran from various sources viz., FAO, ICRISAT, PIB.