A finger on the diet pulse

As a growing body of research highlights the health benefits of eating a predominantly plant-based diet, various countries are starting to change their dietary recommendations

“Canada, for example, recently updated its dietary guidelines, which advise a ‘regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich food – especially plant based sources of protein’. This is a huge step forward in educating people that they do not need to eat animal protein to be healthy,” says clinical dietician Nicole Sacks.

Health benefits

According to Sacks, eating pulses on a regular basis has been shown to benefit health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes as well as certain cancers. Pulses include peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas and are an essential part of a plant-based diet.

“They provide important nutrients that can easily replace the nutrients found in meat with none of the cholesterol or saturated fat. Pulses are rich in fibre, which isbeneficial to weight management and a very important nutrient for human health.

“The carbohydrates found in pulses are fermentable, which can increase the good bacteria for a healthy gut. Pulses contain important vitamins and minerals like potassium, folate and iron,” says Sacks, who switched to a plant-based diet five years ago.


An article published in the Guardian in May 2018 confirms that reducing consumption of meat and dairy is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth.

The research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% and still feed the world.

“Eliminating or even reducing the amount of meat you eat has a far bigger impact on greenhouse emissions than cutting down on your flights, switching off lights, taking quick showers or buying an electric car. Beef results in up to 105kg of greenhouse gases per 100g of meat, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg. Pulses and peas come in even lower,” says Dean Miller, Group Marketing Manager AGT Foods Africa, a value-added pulse, staple food and ingredient processor for export and domestic markets.

Join the movement

If you’d like to reduce your animal protein intake to benefit your health, your waistline and the planet, why not start with this vegetarian bean chilli recipe and commemorate World Pulses Day on 10 February 2019.

Vegetarian Bean Chilli

Serves 6-8


  • 1 cup lentils, prepared as per pack instructions
  • 2 cups beans of choice, prepared as per pack instructions
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1-3 tablespoons chilli powder (according to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cans of whole tomatoes and their juice, crush the tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Optional toppings: sour cream, cheddar cheese, coriander, diced avocados or green onion.


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add chilli powder, cumin, oreganum and chilli flakes and stir.
  5. Add the red pepper, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and juice and bring to a simmer.
  7. Reduce the heat to low with the lid off and continue to cook the chilli, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
  8. Add lentils, beans and corn and let the chilli return to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Add salt.
  10. Serve on its own or topped with some of the delicious toppings.

Ideal topping options include:

  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream or crème fraîche
  • Sliced or diced avocado
  • Tortilla chips (crumbled if desired)
  • Additional coriander
  • Lime wedges

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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