The United Nations has declared 2016 the Year of the Pulses for their nutritional benefits and contributions to a healthy diet .
By J.M. Towers
Legumes (or pulses) are essential nutrients for a balanced diet, so doctors and nutritionists recommend you eat them, at least, three times a week.
Beans, chickpeas, lima beans, lentils, and other legumes are rich sources of protein, iron, calcium, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
The benefits of eating vegetables have been demonstrated by the international scientific and medical community, based on studies that show that their consumption is useful to fight high cholesterol (LDL). Legumes, pulses or seeds also help solve the problems caused by constipation, as well as the growing danger of type II diabetes, which is linked to obesity.
When we consume pulses, blood glucose levels increase at a lower pace thanks to their high fiber content. Fiber is a necessary ingredient that helps us avoid colon cancer and many other problems linked to poor intestinal health. Moreover, the high fiber content makes you feel fuller much earlier than with other foods, so its use is recommended in diets aimed to lose weight.
Because of their importance and proven virtues, the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, asking the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to cooperate with governments and non-governmental organizations to raise awareness of the nutritional benefits of legumes in the context of sustainable food production and in support of food security and nutrition.
The celebration this year will be a great opportunity to familiarize people with the production chain and make better use of proteins from legumes, as well as to increase production worldwide by making better use of crop rotation.
A long list of high-level talks and events will be held in various countries. One of the most outstanding of these high-level meetings will take place in March in Naples, Italy— the birthplace of the Slow Food movement—to promote healthy eating habits while rediscovering the flavors and the culinary traditions of yesteryear.
Although there are plenty of ways to prepare legumes, FAO offers—on its website—some interesting and healthy recipes drawn from the major cuisines of the world, in which these products are the essential element.
And never forget that a healthy lifestyle requires not only a balanced diet but also some form of daily physical exercise. ■
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