British pulses and legumes for sustainable, healthy diets

Dr Diogo Souza Monteiro, Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness Management, School of Natural & Environmental Sciences

Pulses are grain legumes that serve as the basis of healthy meals throughout the world. Historically legumes and pulses were an important source of proteins for both food and animal feed. In India, the Middle East and Mediterranean countries they are still an important source of protein and key ingredients for traditional dishes. However, in the UK the consumption of these products has been in steady decline in the past two decades. Yet peas, beans and many other legumes can be successfully produced in the UK for both animal feed and, more importantly, as food.

I have worked with the pulses industry in the UK on a project investigating alternative sources of protein for a growing global population. With colleagues I wrote a report for the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) on how to develop British pulses for food consumer markets. The report is divided into three parts:

  • health benefits and claims on pulse products
  • evidence for environmental benefits of introducing pulses in crop rotations
  • market opportunities for pulse based products in the British market

Legumes are one of the most sustainable sources of protein. They have an outstanding nutritional value and therefore are increasingly recommended as part of a heathy diet.  While in wealthier countries, such as the UK, normally the population has sufficient protein intake. There are, however, some groups, namely the elderly, that are not consuming their recommended daily intake. This was reported in a recent review paper published in the journal Nutrients. Legumes increase satiety, and therefore are being used in weight management programs. Also they are important sources of fibre and can be used to manage diabetes. Continue reading