Checking For A Pulse

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June 6, 2016

It’s official. The 68th UN General Assembly just recently named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP)! Last year, the same General Assembly declared 2015 as both the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies and the International Year of Soils, so it makes me happy to see that with the declaration of the IYP, we will continue to build directly on the 2015 efforts surrounding soil. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to see this year starting off on such a positive environmental note, first with the Paris Agreement calling for heightened environmental awareness, consciousness, and responsibility, and now with more attention being called towards pulses and the sustainable production of such.

The first time I heard about this declaration, I assumed this was referencing a need to draw more attention to heart health, and encourage individuals to monitor their heart health (via checking their pulses) more frequently. Embarrassing, I know. But for all you smart cookies out there, you probably already know that the term pulses, refers to dried legumes. While a legume can be simply defined as a type of plant with seeds that grow in long cases called pods, a pulse on the other hand, specifically refers to the dried seed found inside the pod. The most common pulses you’re probably familiar with would be beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas, though many others fall under these four categories.

So what’s the big deal about these things anyways, and why is 2016 being declared the year of pulses? Let me give you the run down.

#1: Sustainable Food Production

One of the things that make pulses so attractive to environmentalists is their nitrogen-fixing capability, and I will attempt to explain this in the least scientific way possible, so I don’t lose you. Nitrogen is undoubtedly the most important ingredient or factor when it comes to producing crops, and this poses huge problems for the environment because fossil fuels are essential to creating nitrogen fertilizer. More simply put, the crop production process is heavily contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and furthering environmental destruction through its use of nitrogen. What makes pulses so special is that through their biological process, they are actually able to extract the majority of the nitrogen necessary for their growth, from the air. Through this same process, pulses are then able to add nitrogen to the soil, significantly slashing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed! As a result of this process, Pulse Canada notes that pulses use half the non-renewable energy inputs of other crops!

In regards to soil management, their biological process also aids in enhancing soil fertilization for surrounding crops in the same rotation. Statistics Canada also notes that growing pulses in rotation with other grains and oilseeds can disrupt disease and insect cycles as well. But the buck doesn’t stop here! Pulses are extremely easy and inexpensive to produce, plus their production doesn’t require large plots of lands, which helps farmers produce a lot more, on less land. Therefore, it is easy to see why it makes so much sense for the UN General Assembly to dedicate increased efforts towards drawing attention to pulses, because of the environmental sustainability aspect.

 #2: Food Security

This is directly tied to my above mention of the General Assembly’s 2015 efforts to increase awareness surrounding soil, when it named 2015 the Year of Soils. In a paper published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, author Sara J. Scherr (1999) notes:

Pulses, because of their role in improving sustainability, notably through soil management, also impact food security. Soil degradation is a major threat to food security in many areas. Africa is particularly impacted by soil degradation, yet pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers. By improving the crop patterns using pulses, farmers can improve their yields and limit the long-term threat to food security that soil degradation represents.

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Scherr’s findings also led her to put forth the notion that pulses aid not only the nutrition of humans, but also of animals. Scherr noted that by including pulses in the diet of animals, this also contributes to producing healthier livestock, which also works to further enhance food security. This also leads directly to my next point – nutrition!

#3: Nutrition

Similar to my post about Matcha, the more you learn about pulses; the more you start to think “it’s almost as though pulses sound too good to be true”. Pulses have been proven to aid in illness prevention of serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer because of their ability to lower blood cholesterol and attenuate blood glucose. Further, these guys provide an excellent source of protein, they are low in fat, and packed with iron, zinc, phosphorous and fibre (which many of our diets fall short of providing). Beans also act as excellent source of B vitamins. Vitamin B is a crucial staple needed in all diets, seeing as vitamin B deficiency can lead to all sorts of nasty things like anemia, depression, anxiety, poor memory and concentration, poor skin, irregular heartbeat, which we obviously want to steer clear of!

Moreover, because pulses provide an excellent source of protein, they also act as the perfect alternative to red meat. I briefly noted this in my tips for Earth Day, but I will also mention it in this post because it is something that is extremely important. Reducing the amount of meat in your diet (even if it’s only once a week) can REALLY help the environment a lot more than you think. The meat industry requires so much energy, and to put this into perspective, 1 pound of beef actually requires the use of 1,799 gallons of water. Yes. GALLONS. If you were to swap out meat at least once a week, and substitute pulses instead, you would not only be helping the environment and contributing to environmental sustainability. Your body would also be reaping a number of nutritional benefits as well. Bringing awareness to the nutritional value, and encouraging everyone to make a conscious effort to include more of them in their diet, is one of the core aims of the General Assembly.

Below I’ve compiled a couple of links you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about pulses. Before I sign off, I also want to share one of my favourite pulse recipe with all of you! Be sure to check it out because it is amazing. I hope after reading this post, you too, are encouraged to include pulses in your diet more frequently. Happy Monday to you all, and I wish you a happy and healthy week ahead!

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Pulse Recipes:

Additional Information on Pulses:

 

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Why Being WILD is Always Better…

June 5, 2016

Step3Today, June 5th 2016, marks this year’s World Environment Day (#WED2016), which is currently being hosted in the seventh largest African country, Angola. Differing from that of Earth Day, World Environment Day is specifically focused on calling attention to not only the environment, but mainly, to the issue of environmental sustainability. The theme and slogan of this year’s World Environment Day is “Go Wild for Life”, which emphasizes the importance of preserving the remaining endangered wildlife for future generations. WED2016 also strives to shed light on the tragic repercussions that result from illegal wildlife trading and wildlife crime.

While many of us are aware of the illegal trading of wildlife products, and the horrific abuses associated with such, I feel as though we often times push these issues towards the back of our mind because it is rather foreign to us, and these issues are something we don’t experience first hand, or hear covered in the news on a regular basis. Although we are all aware of the illegal trading of wildlife and wildlife products, I think we often times forget the bigger picture: the illegal wildlife trading market isn’t just an issue that effects the endangered wildlife left on our planet, but it is an important piece of a much larger, much more serious, puzzle. As the website for this year’s World Environment Day highlights:

The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe“.

Asian Elephant          Tiger

If you’re still thinking “meh, this stuff isn’t really that important to someone like myself” consider this: how would you feel if you could no longer indulge in some of your favourite foods such as honey, wine, coffee, chocolate, and seafood (to name a few) because of environmental damage that prohibits the production of these goods? Then would this stuff become important to you?  NDTV Food wrote an eye-opening article detailing how along with the wildlife, those beloved foods just mentioned, are on a very similar path to extinction due to our own environmental negligence. I don’t know about you, but the thought of no more chocolate is enough to scare me straight!

Despite the designated theme of this year’s World Environment Day, today is not only about waging a war on poachers. It is also about the deforestation crisis, reducing the effects of climate change and global warming, preventing global food shortages, and everything else that falls under the large umbrella of environmental preservation and conservation.

So what can you do to become involved? The answer is LOTS. The three most important ways to get involved are listed below:

1) Spread the Word: The most important thing you can do, begins with spreading the word! Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and fellow classmates and help educate others on important environmental issues they may not know about. You can also dedicate some of your own time to reading up on other environmental issues you are more unfamiliar with. While we may not have the ability to influence government leaders to enforce tougher policies from an individual standpoint, by starting a conversation and becoming engaged in the discussion, you automatically help create and generate a heightened awareness of these issues. The larger the discussion, the more pressure placed on government officials to implement change, and invest in conservation efforts.

2) Get Involved Locally: Another great way to contribute to a greener environment is to get involved at the local level in your own community. For example, make it a point to become familiar with your neighbourhood’s Community Environment Days, to ensure safe recycling and disposal of household items, which helps reduce the amount of unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills. It also doesn’t hurt to stop by your nearest Community Centre, Constituency Office, or sign-up for the newsletter from your City Councillor to find out about the types of events your community is taking part in, and to learn more about how you can help out your local environment (i.e. garbage pick up days).

3) Volunteer: If you have some extra time to donate, volunteering is always an amazing way to give back and help out your community, plus there are a number of fantastic environmental-focused organizations  you can join forces with! One example of a great organization in my city is Evergreen. Evergreen is a Canadian charity centered upon restoring public spaces, and their efforts to do so not only help to strengthen local environments, but also help encourage and promote sustainability in the surrounding community.

On a daily basis, you can also adopt a number of habits to help transform your lifestyle into a more green one, and at the bottom of my Earth Day post, you can find a list of Sabatage tips I created to assist you with such. In honour of World Environment Day, I want to take a moment to further elaborate on one tip I mentioned in that post: Food Waste. Many of us are unaware or oblivious to how serious of an issue this really is, and how detrimental food waste is to environmental sustainability. Did you know nearly half of ALL food produced worldwide is wasted? How disturbing is that?! What many people forget to consider when throwing out food, is that they’re not only tossing away the food. Along with the food, they’re also tossing away all the resources that were used to produce the food, and transport the food to wherever they purchased it from. Here are a couple of my own tips, as well as some from the environmental legend we all love David Suzuki, to help cut back on food waste in your household.

Sabatage Tips to Eliminate Household Food Waste:

  • Save and ACTUALLY eat your leftovers!
  • Make sure you are properly storing all your food in airtight containers.
  • Be mindful of the foods you are throwing away on a regular basis, and modify your habits accordingly (i.e. start recording expiry dates, purchase smaller quantities of things you notice you are frequently tossing etc).
  • Buy only what you need (aka learn to shop smarter). This may seem like a simple concept, but you would be amazed by how many people do not shop smart. Buying exactly what you need, also helps to cut grocery bill costs. You can kill two birds with one stone by downloading apps, which help you plan out your weekly meals and grocery lists to help avoid this exact issue! (Check out MealBoard Meal and Grocery Planner App).

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I hope everyone is having a beautiful World Environment Day today, and remember to appreciate and respect the environment not only today, but always!

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