Chickpeas Are the New Chicken Breast: Why I Love Pulses

PULSES

Since I started eating a plant based diet, pulses have become one of my main staples. I usually have at least 3 servings a day (~ 1 can of beans). When it comes to making new recipes, I often use chickpeas where I would have previously used chicken breast. I use them so often because they are nutritious, satisfying, versatile and one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store.

2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulse by at the 68th UN General Assembly. The reason they decided to promote this food group is because they are healthy, sustainable and affordable.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are a part of the legume family. Legumes are any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod (Pulse Canada). Examples are soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and green beans. A pulse is a type of legume that includes the dried seed. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are just a few examples. Pulses are high in protein, high in fiber and low in fat.

The health benefits of pulses:

  • Low glycemic index – They provide you with the carbs you need to stay energized, but don’t provide the blood sugar spike that white pasta or white rice would. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
  • High in protein – Pulses range from containing about 20-27% of calories from protein. This makes them a good option for people following plant based diets or people who are reducing their meat consumption for various reasons.
  • High in fiber –  Fiber helps keep you fuller longer. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Fiber also helps lower LDL cholesterol, one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • High in iron – Pulses are high in iron. Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron will result in anemia, characterized by not producing enough red blood cells.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Pulses:

  • Water efficiency – 1 kg of lentils requires 50 liters of water, compared to 13,000 liters for 1 kg of beef. 1 kg of 85% lean ground beef contains about 2500 calories, 1 kg of dried lentils contains about 3500 calories. This means beef requires about 502 L/ 100 kcal, whereas lentils require about 1.42 L/ 100 kcal. (This was based on an infographic by the FAO. *They didn’t specify if that was the water used for 1kg dried or cooked lentils.).
  • Soil nitrogen  – Pulses can fix their own nitrogen in their soil. This results in them needing less fertilizer than other crops.
  • Great replacement for meat – Animal agriculture is one of the leading, if not the leading contributor to climate change. It has been cited as contributing anywhere from 18%51% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is also a major contributor to deforestationoverexploitation of marine life and pollution.
  • Lower on the food chain – One of the reasons plant based foods are better for the environment is because they are lower on the food chain. More plants go into feeding the animals for your food than just eating the plants directly.

Affordability:

Pulses have many health and environment benefits, but they are also one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 1 lb. of dried beans costs about $1.50, compared to about $4 for 1 lb. of beef (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 85% lean ground beef contains about 1137 kcal/lb., whereas 1 lb. of dried lentils contains about  1584 kcal/lb. This comes out to $3.50/1000 kcal of beef and $0.95/1000 kcal of lentils.

Their high protein and micronutrient content combined with their low cost makes pulses a great food to promote to fight food insecurity in developing nations.

IYP-Pulses-Facts-infographic

Recipes that Include Pulses:

Chickpeas and Corn Salad

Pesto Hummus

Chickpeas with Mustard and Capers Sauce

Tempeh and Black Beans Fajitas

Buffalo Chickpeas

Chickpeas and sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Chickpeas Avocado Salad

Chickpea Tomato Curry

Southwestern Stir Fry

Black Bean Salad

 

 

Learn More:

What is a Pulse? – Pulse Canada

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Health Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans – Harvard Health Blog

Pulses and Climate Change – FAO

Pulses Contribute to Food Security – FAO

International Year of the Pulse

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

I’m Going Vegan! (and Why)

I’ve been eating a predominantly plant-based diet for a while, but recently I decided to go vegan. My motivations are for the environment, my health and animal welfare. Although, since my diet was already over 90% plant-based, I don’t expect it to make a significant difference for my health.

Health: popeye There is enough evidence that beyond reasonable doubt, humans in our society can thrive on a well-planned vegan diet. A whole-foods plant-based diet has even been shown to be advantageous in preventing nearly all of our top killers.

That said, there are a few nutrients that require special attention. It is recommended that vegans supplement with vitamin B12 (which can only be produced by bacteria) since there are no reliable plant sources. In addition to supplementing with B12, I am also taking an algae-based EPA/DHA supplement and Vitamin D during the winter.

Environment:

Animal agriculture is one of the top contributors to climate change.

Animal Welfare:

Animals are sentient beings that feel pain. I personally do not want to contribute to the suffering of sentient beings if I don’t have to to be healthy.

When it comes to non-vegan clothing/ cosmetics, etc., I plan on using them until they wear out.

Learn More:

Forks Over Knives (available on Netflix)

Cowspiracy

Earthlings (Warning: graphic)

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death – Dr. Michael Greger

The China Study

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

American Dietetics Association – Vegetarian/ Vegan Diets

Nutritionfacts.org

Veganhealth.org

Livestock and Climate Change

Livestock’s Long Shadow

The Problems with The Beef Industry & How to Be a Part of The Solution

As consumers, we are inclined to only look at one side of the story. When we buy products we usually consider how it affects us. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is another side that we should consider. What went into this product? How was it produced? What is the impact of their methods towards humanity and the environment? Do I support the way they run their operations?

Over the last few decades, food production in the US has shifted to a system that is dominated by industrialized factory farms, owned by only a handful of corporations. The rise of industrialized farming has run smaller local farms out of business. In addition, there are a handful of concerns with the impact of  factory farming. Among them is the beef industry.

Irresponsible Use of Antibiotics

80% of antibiotics used in the US go to farm animals, including livestock.

distribution of antibiotics

Why? Cattle in industrialized farms are in small overcrowded spaces which are stressful to the animal and make infections spread more easily. The counteract this, many industrialized farms give their cattle low-levels of antibiotics to prevent infection and promote weight gain.

Why is this bad? Using low-levels of antibiotics in crowded spaces encourages the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance has become of the greatest public health threats our world faces, this threat is in part due to inappropriate use of it. Easily treatable infections can once again become life threatening as they were before antibiotics.

Farm to Fork

The FDA recently added rules to phase out the use of antibiotics. These rules are on a volunteer bases and only cover specific drugs that are commonly used to treat humans. While this move may  improve public image, it really doesn’t do much to end inappropriate use of antibiotics in livestock.

Hormones

 Most cattle in the U.S. are given anabolic hormone implants to promote faster growth. There are six steroids used, in varying combinations.

  • Natural: estradiol, testosterone and progesterone
  • Synthetic: estrogen compound zeranol, the androgen trenbolone acetate, and progestin melengestrol acetate

Giving steroids to beef makes them grow more muscle and makes them grow faster, this makes them cheaper to raise and gives the beef industry more meat to sell.

Is it safe? While the U.S. government claims the use of antibiotics is safe, the European Union has banned meat that have been given hormone implants. There is a surprising lack of research given how widespread hormone added meat is. Despite the lack of proof that it is actually safe, the majority of the U.S. beef industry continues the practice with little concern for what that means for anything beyond their own profit.

What are the concerns? There are concerns that the hormone additives that are in the meat may cause birth defects and change the sexual development in children. There are also concerns that it may cause cancer.

The Environmental Impact

What goes into a burger

Animal Manure: Factory farms are overcrowded. The high concentration of animals in a small space makes managing waste complicated. The disposal of the waste harms the air, water, soil and nearby farms. To add on to this, livestock waste is not processed for sanitation. The waste is often mixed with water which is then sprayed on crops. This can spread infectious diseases such as E. Coli (which they also may have helped in making it resistant to antibiotics). When the manure/water pits become overfilled, it can leak which can eventually end up in surface water.

Air Pollution: Factory farms pollute the air with methane and hydrogen sulfide. These gases contribute to global warming and may cause harm to those living nearby. Air pollution is often the result of the overuse of machines, mismanagement of waste and harmful feeding practices.

Animal Welfare

The industrialized cows have to live through unnecessary cruelty.

factory farms

  • For identification purposes, cows are branded with a hot iron causing third degree burns.
  • Male calves testicles are ripped from their scrotum.
  • The horns of cows raised for beef are cut or burned off.
  • Livestock fed diets high in grain often suffer from chronic digestive pain and conditions such as acidosis.Rather changing their diet to grass-fed, they are given low-level doses of antibiotics so they keep growing. The antibiotics don’t do much for the suffering of the animal.
  • The feedlot air is filled with ammonia, methane and other harmful chemicals. These gases cause chronic respiratory issues.
  • The livestock are often in very crowded environments. These environments are uncomfortable and very stressful to the animals.

What You Can Do About It

One of the best ways to change the way to food system operates is through voting with your wallet. If you do not support the practices of industrialized farming, then do not support them. There are a number of ways you can go about this…

Support Small Local Sustainable Farms: Small farms are having an increasingly difficult time competing with the bigger industrialized farms. It is important for both economical and environmental sustainability that local farms are supported.

  • You can find local Certified Humane products here.
  • You can find local sustainable food here.
  • If you find a local farmer and make a seasonal deal, you may be able to get a discount on the meat.

USDA Organic: Items that are “100 percent organic” are certified to have been produced using only methods thought to be good for the earth. “Organic” means the item contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients.  Prohibits the use of hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, radiation, synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers.

American Grass-fed Certified: Applies to beef and lamb. Requires humane treatment, open pastures, and a grass-only diet for all animals and prohibits use of all antibiotics and hormones.

Certified Humane: No Cages, No crates, no tie stalls. animals must be free to do what comes naturally. A diet of quality feed, without animal by- products, antibiotics or growth hormones. Producers must comply with food safety and environmental regulations. Processors must comply with the American Meat Institute Standards (AMI).

Eat Less Meat: You can reduce the amount of meat you consume or stop eating it all together.

Spread the Word: The more people that know about factory farms and other problems with our food system, the more pressure there will be for legitimate regulation and reform.

 

Read More: 

Tips for Sustainable Living

The Meatrix

Industrial Livestock Production

What You Need to Know About The Beef Industry

Growth Hormones in Beef Linked to Adverse Affects on Male Sexual Development

Decoding Meat and Dairy Product Labels

Glossary of Meat Production Methods

Factory Farming: Cruelty to Animals

Visualizing a Nation of Meat Eaters

Food Economics

Animal Welfare

Environment

 

 

Tips for Sustainable Living

I believe part of living a healthy lifestyle is doing what  I can to live environmentally sustainably and keep the planet I’m dependent on habitable. How can we expect to be healthy if we do not live in harmony with nature, do not interact with the environment the way we were designed to and we are destroying the environment we are dependent on for our survival? In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would share some tips for living sustainably.

97% of climate scientists agree that humans are at least partially responsible for climate change. Here is some of the evidence. If 97% of climate scientists are wrong and we take action and live sustainably, then the result is: cleaner air, no oil spills, no nuclear plant disasters, we produce/consume less and live more, get more out of what we use. There would be no harm done. However, if 97% of climate scientists are right and we don’t make use of the solutions which already exist: famine, unsafe water, unsafe air, more death/disease caused by living in toxic environments, catastrophic weather events, widespread conflict and eventually mass extinction (including humans).

Eat Local:  You can find local farmer’s markets here. You can also grow your own food.

Eat a Plant-Based Diet: Not only are plant-based diets among the healthiest, they are also among the most sustainable.

Buy Foods with Sustainable Labels: Such as…

  • USDA Organic: Items that are “100 percent organic” are certified to have been produced using only methods thought to be good for the earth. “Organic” means the item contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients.  Prohibits the use of hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, radiation, synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers.
  • American Grassfed Certified: Applies to beef and lamb. Requires humane treatment, open pastures, and a grass-only diet for all animals and prohibits use of all antibiotics and hormones.

  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Sets high standards for environmental protection, worker rights and welfare, and the interests of local communities. Some pesticide use is allowed.

  • Fair Trade Certified: Members commit to biodiversity-enhancing practices, ensuring children’s rights, supporting safe working conditions and other fair-trade measures, and documenting fair-trade labor policies.

Use Less Fuel: Walk, bike or take public transportation when possible. If you have the opportunity, get a hybrid car so you aren’t dependent on gas.

Use Renewable Energy: Buy solar panels or use renewable energy options from your energy service.

Use Less Electricity: Buy energy efficient products, turn off the lights when you can and turn the power down when you are not using it, hang dry clothes when possible.

Use Less Water: Shorter showers, use dishwasher only when full, wash clothes only when full.

Do not buy bottled water

Recycle: You can follow standard recycling practices and buy products secondhand.

Compost

Buy less stuff.

 

More:

Find out your ecological footprint.

Post Carbon Institute

Resilience – Environment

Transition Towns

Reduce your ecological footprint.

NRDC Green Eating Guide

Time is Running Out for Climate Change

Climate Deniers Manipulative Fake Science