HARARE, Zimbabwe 

Zimbabweans are finding more benefits of consuming pulses, as health challenges are forcing people to go back to traditional foods.

As the country marks the World Pulses Day on Feb. 10, awareness campaigns on benefits of consuming pulses have been stepped up.

“As we lock down, let us not lockdown on nutrition,” a jingle by local singer Bob Nyabinde says.

The jingle goes on to advise Zimbabweans to eat healthy food.

“We think pulses are for the poor because we have seen them being donated by food relief agents to the poor and those starving, during times of drought,” Rumbidzayi Mukori, a dietician based in Harare, told Anadolu Agency.

Mukori added: “It takes time for stigmatization to disappear while raising awareness, also you have less taste buds as you grow older and that’s where we come in as dieticians to help people prepare foods in a way that will make them love pulses again.

“We have seen some improvement by doing so.”

World Food Program (WFP) revealed that the consumption of pulses was indeed on the increase in Zimbabwe.

“Production of sugar beans, African peas and groundnuts has been increasing in Zimbabwe as evidenced by the crop assessment of 2021, with production ranging between 108% to 142% compared to year 2020.

“These are mainly produced for domestic consumption,” Tatenda Macheka, WFP assistant communications officer explained.

Pulses are the dried seeds of legumes and they are rich in protein, fiber and minerals and low in fat, making them a great addition to any diet.

Nutritional benefits

“We join the world in commemorating World Pulses Day as they play an important role in our programs, in saving lives and changing lives,” Tatenda Macheka from WFP said, adding: “World Pulses Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production.”

Pulses include baked beans, red, green, yellow and brown lentils. Black-eyed peas, garden peas, runner beans, chickpeas, broad beans and kidney beans also fall in the pulses family and are common in most African countries, including Zimbabwe.

“Pulses Day means a lot to us Zimbabweans because of the benefits we get from them,” Ivan Craig, a top seed production expert, told Anadolu Agency.

According to Craig, the oil found in some pulses is essential for a healthy heart, lowering of blood pressure and diabetes.

Meanwhile, Mukori hinted that black-eyed pea, also known as cow pea, is one of the healthiest in the world and Zimbabweans grow them in abundance.

With increasing food prices and rising unemployment amid the pandemic, the cost of living in Zimbabwe has become unbearable.

Some people now can no longer afford meat and are opting for pulses which are regarded as the best alternatives for proteins.

A visit to the country’s largest food market Mbare Musika in the capital Harare also revealed the cost benefits of consuming pulses.

“I have been a trader of these products for nearly 10 years now but I am beginning to see the demand for pulses increasing especially for those with some chronic illnesses,” a trader said.

Richard, another trader, said: “It used to take me nearly a week to sell 50 kilograms of beans or cow peas … now I can sell close to 120 kilograms, the demand is high, I think people are finding benefit in them now.”

Macheka said high prices for animal protein found in red meat has forced many people to substitute meat with pulses as they are the major source of vegetable protein.

According to Craig, pulses are now an economical way of maintaining a healthy body as, “they act as anti-inflammatory, boost metabolism and immune system, and works as laxative and reduces the risk of bowel cancer.”

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