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

How to test policy interventions for sustainable food choices

Dr Luca Panzone, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University

food-store

There is increasing policy attention on the choices we make as consumers, particularly the impact these choices make on the environment. Everyday choices such as what we buy in supermarkets can have a significant impact on the planet, as they determine what we cook, eat or waste.

The plastic bag charge in the UK, for example, resulted in a massive drop in plastic bag use at retailers, significantly reducing plastic waste. For food shopping, if we could understand what drives our choices better, we could then advise retailers on how to design the shopping experience to better facilitate the task of consumers who value protection of the environment.

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Summer of Soil – Living Soil Forum

PhD student Jasmine Black was supported by NIReS to attend the Summer of Soil Living Soil Forum in Sweden, July 2013. In this post she keeps us up to date with her experience, the effectiveness of the forum and what she took from it.

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