A guide to the pulses that power our planet

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A guide to the pulses that power our planet

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
© IFAD / Laisiasa Dave / Pacific Farmer Organizations

It’s no secret pulses are good for you. They’re high in protein, fibre, iron and essential minerals, while being low in fat and sodium.

But these superfoods aren’t just good for you – they’re also good for the planet.

Pulses can produce 100g of protein while emitting only 1kg of greenhouse gases. Beef, on the other hand, emits 50kg of greenhouse gases for the same amount of protein. Pulses are also good for the soil, as they host bacteria in their roots that draw in nitrogen from the air. This enriches the soil and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.

It’s no wonder pulses are at the heart of thriving rural communities, and an essential ingredient for a sustainable future – so learn how to cook them with our Recipes for Change!

Bountiful beans

Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) originate in the Americas but thrive in many environments thanks to their ability to host a diverse range of friendly bacteria in their roots. That's why you can find tasty bean dishes on every continent, from rajma in India to enfrijoladas in Mexico

Make it at home! Try Chef Bela Gil’s bean-filled delight from Brazil: rice and beans with jackfruit meat and sautéed vegetables. Or whip up Chef Pierre Thiam's simple vegan North American chilli.

Can-do cowpeas

Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata), including black-eyed peas, were first cultivated in Africa and are some of the oldest domesticated crops in the world. These hardy plants can thrive in very sandy soils with high temperatures and little water. This makes cowpeas a nutrition-packed powerhouse for small-scale farmers adapting to climate change in the Sahel region of Africa.



Limitless lentils

Lentils (Vicia lens) come in a rainbow of colours, from blue-green Puy lentils to vivid orange masoor. By planting these drought-tolerant crops on fallow land between harvests, small-scale farmers can gain an additional income stream and diversify their diets.

Make it at home! Try Chef Ska Moteane’s delicious liphaphatha, a lentil and sorghum curry served with flatbread, from Lesotho.



Champion chickpeas

Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) are widely grown in arid and semi-arid regions of Asia and Africa, and are rich in proteins and vitamins. A long history of domestication has reduced their genetic diversity, making them less climate-adaptive. However, some wild varieties of chickpeas can withstand drought and temperatures as high as 40 degrees, underscoring how conserving biodiversity matters in a climate change reality.

Make it at home! With a Michelin-starred restaurant under her belt, Chef Cristina Bowerman knows the power of pulses! Try two of her chickpea recipes.