To bean or not to bean? That is the question…. While occidental culture has not made us big fans of beans, chickpeas and lentils, some international experts have crunched some numbers and confirmed what Jack knew from the start:  those are quite magical.

Indeed, pulse-based proteins are one of the most efficient, sustainable and scalable sources of protein we have to meet increasing demand from our growing population. As a result, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon has officially named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (#IYP2016).

Pulses are a subcategory of legumes and include dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils – Photo credits: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Here is why I love pulses so much, why I made eating more of them my new year’s resolution, and how you could too (take the pledge).

For one, pulses give you protein without the saturated fat of meat. They contain 20-25% protein, while wheat, rice and corn protein levels range from 7-14%. Actually, a lot of traditional dishes, such as Mexican beans and corn, Japanese soybeans  and rice, Cajun red beans and rice, or Indian dal and rice or roti combine legumes with grains to provide a meal that is high in all 9 essential amino-acids needed for our body to function. Pulses also contain fibre, carbohydrates and micro-nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc.
(Pssst… our UHN Chef Geremy Capone has a trick to prepare pulses to make them… hum… more digestible. Come to this week’s class or check it out online

Secondly, legumes are part of the rare plant families (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) that can fix nitrogen from the air, thanks to their symbiotic association with soil bacteria. This means growing pulses uses less synthetic fertilizers and nourishes the soil with nitrogen available to the plant grown next year. Actually, until the invention of synthetic ammonia a century ago, farmers relied on legumes, along with manure, crop residue and guano as sources of nitrogen for their crops.

nitrogen fixation

And finally, since pulses use less water compared to other crops, they are more drought resistant, and production of pulses emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with beef production.

Water use

So… it’s a win-win-win situation… If only I knew what to do with pulses!

Well, this Thursday, Jan21, 12:15-1pm at ELLICSR Kitchen, Chef Geremy Capone and  Christy Brissette, RD give you – patients, staff and volunteers – two pulses recipes AND you get to try some samples. I don’t know for you, but eating pulses this year seems less of a mission imPULSEible to me. 

Credits: ELLICSR Kitchen

So what do you think? How should we celebrate the International Year of Pulses at UHN? 

Bon appétit!