What are the benefits of pulses for our health and the environment?

September 2020 – Reading time : 2min30

Pulses are recognized as having many benefits. For a long time discredited, considered tasteless and invigorating, pulses (or legumes) are making a powerful comeback. Prepared by chefs and enriched with new varieties, it’s time to (re)discover them!

What exactly are they? What are pulses’ nutritional benefits? What are their advantages for the environment? How are they a key component of the agro-ecological transition? Why should pulses be regularly served on canteen menus?

What are pulses?

First of all, pulses, also called legumes, are part of the Fabaceae (plant) family. Their fruits are contained within pods. There are different types, including: lentils (green lentils, coral lentils, etc.), dried peas (chickpeas for example), soya beans and dried beans.

Pulses have been an essential component of the human diet for centuries. However, their nutritional value is generally not well known, and their consumption is not fully appreciated. But they deserve better! Indeed, they offer both nutritional and environmental benefits, which is the reason why it is important to include them in your diet!

Finally, the French National Nutrition and Health Programme (PNNS) recommends consuming pulses twice a week.

What are pulses’ nutritional benefits?

  1. Pulses are rich in protein

Pulses are foods rich in protein (20 to 35%). Their composition in amino acids essential to the functioning of the body is complementary to that of cereals. Thus, the combination of pulses and cereals in the same meal provides a sufficient quantity and quality of protein!  This is called vegetable complementation.

We can also say that the nutritional quality of vegetarian meals is improved when pulses are eaten at the same time as cereals.

  1. They are an excellent source of fibre

In addition to their high protein value, pulses are an excellent source of fibre, which is difficult to reach the recommended daily value (30 g). These fibres, soluble or insoluble, promote satiety and are at the origin of the positive impact of pulses on weight regulation.

  1. They are composed of vitamins and minerals

Their micronutrient composition is also interesting as they contain minerals (copper, manganese) and vitamins (e.g. Vitamin E, vitamin B9).

What are the advantages of pulses for the environment?

From an environmental perspective, it can be said that pulses are intelligent in terms of climate because:

  1. Their crop helps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They improve carbon capture, which is good for the planet.

Did you know it ? The first contribution of agriculture to GHG emissions comes from the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer production. The environmental performance of pulses comes in particular from the fact that they can fix atmospheric nitrogen. Thus, they do not need chemical fertilisers to grow and have beneficial effects on soil biodiversity!

  1. They have the advantage of requiring little water, improving the water retention capacity of soils and thus their fertility

    (“Pulse fiction : Pour une transition agricole et alimentaire durable. Rapport WWF 2019”)


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Pulses in the collective catering sector: a key component of agro-ecological transition

A vegetarian menu once a week in school canteens is the rule defined in the French “EGAlim” Law.

In this context, pulses, which are rich in vegetable proteins, have a major role to play in the composition of alternative (vegetarian) dishes in collective catering!

Moreover, the players in the collective catering sector (chefs, managers) are now in favour of pulses. For instance, a recent survey led by the INRAE: the vast majority of stakeholders have a good perception of the nutritional profile. They state that they regularly or systematically use pulses in their vegetarian meals.  Pulses are described as “interesting” and “innovative” products.

and pulses

The Épi&Co range of products is mainly composed of chickpeas from “Occitanie” and wheat from the “Grand-est” (French regions). But you can also find other types of pulses: enough to enjoy oneself!

The combination of pulses and wheat allows Épi&Co to offer gourmet, healthy food, rich in plant-based proteins and sources of fibre.

Looking for inspiration? These 100% vegetable specialities can be cooked over and over again and are perfect to meet the requirements of many specific diets!

Adapted to the recommendations of the PNNS and the EGAlim Law (French), you no longer need to think hard to offer good menus based on plant-based proteins in your canteens!

Click here for more information on the Epi&Co range!