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Pulse foods are by definition the dry edible seeds of the botanical family Leguminosae. They include the common bean, chickpeas, lentils, and dry peas. The history of pulse use is briefly explored to illustrate the long and varied human traditions of pulse use through the centuries. Nutritional benefits include high protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Pulses have also been studied for their positive effects on a number of chronic human health issues, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, blood pressure, and cholesterol. A description of pulse crops and their place in the agricultural environment illustrates how they are necessary for sustaining soil health, along with patterns of production and consumption worldwide.
Health benefits of pulse foods consumption have been well established in the literature, but consumers remain reluctant to use them. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as the Food-based Dietary Guidelines in Europe recommend at least two times weekly up to daily consumption of pulse foods, yet the vast majority of people fail to meet these minimums. In order to understand more fully the barriers to pulse consumption, a qualitative study was conducted by interviewing seven professionals who work with pulses across the spectrum of education, commodity organizations, research institutions, farming, and Cooperative Extension within a pulse-growing region of the U.S. Qualitative interviews using structured questions were conducted via Zoom with selected participants. A series of ten semi-open-ended questions were asked, including personal consumption habits of pulses, new pulse products on the market today, how the word “pulses” is understood or misunderstood by consumers, nutritional benefits, the role of MyPlate in helping consumers to plan meals with pulses, the types of consumers who eat pulses the most and what pulses they choose to eat, barriers to pulse use, and solutions for increasing and promoting pulse consumption. Data analysis found that there were a variety of reasons for the reluctance to use pulses, as well as the difficulty in marketing, research, and increasing production of pulses. Some solutions for promoting pulses could be implemented in the near future, and other solutions needed further research to implement.
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