Have you taken the Pulse Pledge yet?

In my last post, I talked about 2016 being the International Year of Pulses and why, for health’s sake,  you should take the Pulse Pledge. The pledge is to put pulses on your menu at least once a week for ten weeks.

But putting pulses on the menu also benefits planetary health and one of the major reasons for the United Nations bringing attention to these foods. We can’t talk about nutritious foods without considering the impact of our choices on future generations. In fact, for the first time, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee had included planetary health in their recommendations.

But  those who have read what was released earlier this month might have noticed these recommendations were absent.


The U. S. Congress deleted them as they weren’t in keeping with what lobbyists wanted. They certainly didn’t want to see anything official which told Americans to eat less meat. While it may be good for human health and the environment, it’s not what the promoters from the meat and agriculture sector want to be included in guidelines.

It was the final straw for David Katz, MD, MPH, the  Founding Director at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University  in Connecticut. He has started a petition directed at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  It begins:

“Stop False Advertising: Change the Name of the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Sign this petition to ask the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to stop false advertising and change the name of the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” to “Food Policy Guidelines for America”.

It goes on to read:

“These guidelines are not what top nutrition experts think is best for Americans to eat for personal, public, and planetary health. Instead, the recommendations are swayed by a wide-range of government priorities, including corporate ones. The USDA’s report is a guideline for food policy, not legitimate dietary recommendations, and the name of their report should reflect that.”

If you think about it,  our guide (while outdated) which many of us here in Canada believe represents industry may be aptly called “Canada’s Food Guide” considering the input from the various sectors such as agriculture and the food industry.

Dr. Katz was co-chair at the recent Finding Common Ground conference, a meeting of global nutrition experts  where those with vegan and vegetarian philosophies came to a consensus with Paleo followers.  One issue that united them is planetary health.

So why more pulses and less meat for improving the health of the planet?

Consider that livestock production, especially factory farming, is one of the biggest
contributors to greenhouse gases and climate change. Livestock also use tremendous amounts of  fresh water. Pulses, on the other hand,  have a low carbon footprint and use just one-tenth to half of the water of other proteins.

Livestock manure also increases water pollution due to various unwanted compounds – nitrogen, phosphate and illness-causing bacteria, to name a few –  seeping into ground water.  Pulses, though, do the opposite as they enrich the soil they’re grown in.

Simply put, pulses promote environmental sustainability and because they’re inexpensive,   global food security as well.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian but making more meals meatless makes sense.

Pulses are  also a boon for the Canadian economy. Eating Canadian pulses supports our farmers and the economy: Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of dry peas and lentils and a major supplier of pulses to over 150 countries around the world.



Up next: Pulses: a food whose culinary star is rising

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Categories: Food Security, Nutrition News, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Have you taken the Pulse Pledge yet?”

  1. Fern Sanders
    January 20, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    Someone just equated gmo pulses with organic pulses. Since organic has only to do with pest control and fertilizer usage and the other has to deal with “messing” with the genetic origins of these plants, do these two situations overlap. Her version of the story is that pulses have been so tampered with that they are not worth eating while organic pulses are pristine and good for you. Please clarify cuz this sounds like an apples and oranges situation-both are fruit but completely different. F. Sanders

  2. January 25, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Fern, the only GMO pulses I know of in Canada are soybeans. Pulses, whether organic or GMO, are powerhouses of nutrition. That is not to say that there aren’t issues surrounding GMO foods and labelling but as far as pulses being safe and nutritious, it’s not a concern.

    GMO labelling and the impact of GMO on the environment may be a different kettle of fish. As well, various GMO foods will have to be assessed individually.

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