Photo credit: Sanjay Acharya, Wikimedia Commons
NEW YORK — A special issue of Annals published by the New York Academy of Sciences, stresses how increased pulse consumption could address nutrition issues related to the health of the overall human population, as well as the planet.
Pulses are members of the legume family and include dried peas, edible lentils, and chickpeas. They are high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. They are affordable, have a high nutrient density, and contribute to the sustainability of agricultural systems as a nitrogen fixing crop. The United Nations supports the increase of pulse production and consumption by 10 percent by 2020, as well as improving market access to the legumes. As a food source, pulses have the potential to offer cost-effective solutions for global nutrition as well as health and sustainability concerns, if consumed in greater amounts.
In one of the papers, experts in food processing, human health, food and nutritional security, global trade, agriculture, and environmental science have developed a common vision and action plan to reach the United Nation's goals for pulse consumption by 2020. They agreed that a committed group of pulse industry stakeholders must work together to create a research agenda focused on shifting consumer behavior towards greater pulse consumption.
Authors highlight the needs for multi-sectoral partnerships to realize these goals through developing policies, regulations, guidelines and public intervention programs promoting pulse consumption. Data from the research community must be leveraged to offer effective evidence-based solutions. More importantly such research must then be incorporated into a comprehensive communications agenda that addresses consumers' lack of familiarity with pulses as a beneficial food source.
Secondly, the authors emphasized that to meet the goals, experts must provide solutions to increase pulse yields while reducing input costs through improved, integrated crop-management practices. New technologies must be utilized to improve pulse varieties that are adapted to local agro-climatic conditions, suited for mechanical harvest, and possess traits valued by global markets and end users. Additionally barriers to access in existing and emerging markets should be addressed.