Growing importance of pulses in daily diets

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Pulses include a wide variety of beans, peas and lentils. They have been a staple in the daily diet of several civilisations for centuries and were among the first food products to be cultivated by humans during the agricultural revolution. Pulses are of vital importance to the human body since they are rich in proteins. For several persons who don’t consume meat on a regular basis for economic, religious or cultural reasons, pulses are the primary source of protein. Furthermore, pulses also play a crucial role in soil health.

Pulses are important for soil health since they transform nitrogen from the environment into protein. As a result, they have lesser fertilizer requirements as compared to most other crops. They also help feed friendly bacteria in the soil through this nitrogen fixation, which helps in providing nutrients to the soil. Following the harvest of pulses, a certain amount of nitrogen is retained in the soil, which provides essential nutrients to the next crop. As a result, pulses are often sown in rotation with other crops. Furthermore, most pulses on an average also require lesser water than most other crops, which helps preserve soil moisture; this is also the reason why several pulses are grown in dry climates and during dry seasons.

As far as pulses being a part of people’s daily diet is concerned, it is observed that the trend has traditionally been stronger in developing and underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa as compared to Europe and North America. This is since pulses are generally cheaper than meat products. Often, pulses are seen in the context of the proteins they supply to the body. Hence, it is sometimes erroneously assumed that a diet that is rich in meat or fish proteins does not require pulses.

However, it is noteworthy that pulses usually supply different types of proteins as compared to meat and fish, which are easily digestible. Furthermore, pulses are also rich in substances such as fibre, antioxidants, folates, vitamins and minerals, which are vital for the human body. These nutrients play an important role in eliminating cancer causing cells, controlling blood pressure and heart rates, controlling diabetes, besides facilitating a host of other bodily functions.

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Given these factors, awareness about how crucial pulses are in people’s daily diets has been steadily growing. Furthermore, the growing trend of veganism is also catching up in several western countries, which is making pulses the primary source of protein in some American and European areas as well since milk proteins cannot be digested well by adults. Additionally, pulses are also gaining popularity due to the harmful effects of the animal husbandry industry on the environment. The animal husbandry industry is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and is contributing to global warming. Furthermore, people are also increasingly becoming wary about chemicals being present in animal feed, which may be reaching humans through the food chain. Due to these factors, a daily diet with an increased amount of pulses is gaining traction in several countries, even as its core need in the developing and underdeveloped world remains unaltered.