Legumes for Life

Tamana Sharma, Dr. Vivak M Arya
With over 20,000 species, the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family (often known as the legume, pea, or bean) is the third largest flowering plant family.
Legumes are a nutrient-dense mainstay of many people’s diets all across the world. They’re a good source of protein, vitamins, complex carbs, and fibre at a low cost. Although the phrases “legumes,” “pulses,” and “beans” are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Any plant of the Fabaceae family, including its leaves, stems, and pods, is referred to as a legume. The edible seed of a legume plant is known as a pulse. Beans, lentils, and peas are examples of pulses. A pea pod, for example, is a legume, but the pea within is a pulse.The entire legume plant is frequently employed in agricultural applications (as cover crops, livestock feed, or fertilizers), although the seeds or pulses are what we usually eat. Beans, in all of its varieties (kidney, black, pinto, navy, chickpeas, and so on) are a type of pulse.
Effect on Humans Health
Pulses are highly nutritious. They are high in vitamins and minerals, and have two to four times the protein content of cereal grains, as well as much more iron, folate, and zinc, all of which are essential for excellent health and vision. They’re reasonably cheap and sustainable, have a low glycemic index, are high in protein and fibre, and are satiating. Legumes can even be used to replace animal-based protein meals in a number of dishes due to their “meaty” texture. Furthermore, because of their relatively neutral flavor, they blend nicely with other vegetables and match well with a range of flavors. Young and adolescent girls can benefit from a diet rich in nutrient-dense pulses. Pulses can be especially beneficial to children who have stunted growth, are underweight, and are malnourished as a result of a diet that is predominantly comprised of low-nutrient cereals. Pulses are low in fat and high in soluble fibre, which can effectively reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels. They are suggested by health organizations for the management of non communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart problems because of their properties. Pulses have also been demonstrated to aid in the fight against obesity.
Effect on Soil
Agriculture is a key contributor to climate change, deforestation, animal extinction, and freshwater depletion and contamination, therefore food production exerts a huge strain on our natural resources. In general, the production of plant-based foods emits less greenhouse gases and consumes less land and water than the production of animal-based foods. Legumes have a number of qualities that make them a relatively long-term crop. Legumes, for example, emit up to seven times less greenhouse gas per unit area than other crops and can retain carbon in the soil. They receive nitrogen from the air in the soil and employ bacteria in specific compartments in their roots to “fix,” or trap, the nitrogen so that it remains in the soil in a form that plants can use. Pulses make their own fertilizer since nitrogen is a main component of fertilizer. Their roots, which are left in the ground after the crop is harvested, provide nitrogen to the next crop, reducing the amount of fertilizer required. Drought-resistant legume species, according to the FAO, might be especially useful in dry areas where food security is a concern. Because pulses can be dried and stored for long periods of time without losing their nutritional content, they can also help reduce food waste. Pulses increase biodiversity as they can fix nitrogen in the soil and increase soil fertility. With high soil biodiversity ecosystem offers greater resilience against disturbance and stress.
Legumes are indispensable for human diet in respect to their valuable and nutritive bioactive molecules. Legumes and derivative foodstuffs are rich in fiber, proteins, vitamins and some valuable phyto chemicals, which exhibit important biological activities. Due to their remarkable molecular content, they are receiving great attention by researchers. Legume and pulse consumption is a usual and beneficial part of the human diet and contributory to health. This paired with pulses’ ability to feed the planet sustainably and provide an inexpensive source of essential nutrients and bioactively favourable phytochemicals demonstrates the role they can play in the food system. There is now evidence that regular consumption of pulses has multiple health benefits including those on heart health, gastrointestinal health and cancer prevention with improved all-cause mortality. Legumes play a vital role in fixing atmospheric nitrogen and also improve soil quality.
(The authors are from SKUAST-J and are working in the field of NRM)