Pulses & Food Security

Food security means ensuring balanced nutritive meal to the poorest citizen of a country. Normally, a healthy adult human body requires 50gms of protein, 225 grams of Carbohydrates of which women need 22 to 28 grams of fiber daily and men need 28 to 34 grams and total fats 44gms(saturated fat to 16 grams ). Carbohydrates are mainly sourced from cereals, fats from oils and animal meat and proteins from pulses and animal meat. Carbohydrates and proteins are the most essential nutrients in a healthy diet. However, the poor can afford only carbohydrates in form of rice and wheat flour to satisfy their hunger from their meager earnings. Governments thus ensure at least rice and wheat to reach the poorest living under the poverty line through public distribution systems. Meat, dairy and fish are expensive and thus out of reach of the poor. Many of the poor populations therefore depend on pulses to cover their protein needs. Protein and energy deficiencies, in both quantity and quality, are often the culprit for widespread malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is a severe form of malnutrition, caused by a deficiency in dietary protein. The extreme lack of protein causes an osmotic imbalance in the gastro-intestinal system causing swelling of the gut diagnosed as an edema or retention of water. World’s population is growing rapidly and protein requirement has increased with a similar pace. Meat a high source of protein suffers losses during production or transportation while in developed countries, a large proportion of food is wasted at the consumption stage. Pulses are shelf stable, the proportion of food waste at the consumption stage due to spoilage is very low and thus, a very good option to ensure household food security.

Some interesting facts,

➤ Pulses are an affordable source of protein and minerals for a large proportion of rural populations in the world.

➤ Pulses have a long shelf life, which means they can be stored for long periods without losing their nutritional value.

  • Deep rooting species such as pigeon peas are able to improve food security and nutrition of farmers in marginal environments.

➤ Many pulses are drought-resistant and are suitable for marginal environments. Pulses can be cultivated in arid climates that have limited, and often erratic, rainfall of 300-450 mm/year. These are lands where other crops can fail or produce low yields.

Protein obtained from pulses is significantly less expensive compared to meat based foods and milk. The iron absorption of pulses and the protein quality of the diet are enhanced when pulses are eaten with cereals and vitamin C rich foods.

Indian government procures only rice and wheat for its PDS procurement while pulses are left out. Pulses are procured for PDS only in times of risen prices. Ensuring food security in terms balanced diet among India’s poor is a prime requirement. Pulses are the most essential ingredients of food security. Moreover, pulses have reasonably lower carbon foot prints as a  protein consumption.