Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits
From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
With increasing concerns about climate change and food insecurity, many are looking to make food choices that reduce their carbon footprint. Plant-based foods can improve both human and planetary health. Research shows that consuming more plant foods can help increase life expectancy and lower rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers.
One way to positively impact human health and the environment is through dietary protein selection. Peas are a part of a vegetable subgroup called pulses. Pulses represent the edible seeds of legumes and include beans, peas, and lentils. Because of the high protein content, pulses count as a protein food group.
Peas have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any crop. Their eco-friendly status is due to their ability to self-fertilize, reducing the need for crop rotation, by taking nitrogen from the air and storing it in their roots. They are also drought tolerant. By way of comparison, it is estimated to take 1,857 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef yet only 43 gallons for a pound of peas. The lower cost of pea protein is an added financial savings bonus.
With countless windmills and a myriad of bicycle lanes crossing the countryside, the Dutch are known for their sustainable lifestyle. In fact, the Dutch are ranked 13th on the Global Sustainability Index. This traditional Dutch split pea soup reflects the eco-friendly Dutch attitude with a traditional split-pea soup, or “snert.” While this recipe still contains several animal meats, replacing some of the protein with peas is a good step toward making environmentally conscious food choices.
Robinson GHJ, Domoney C. Perspectives on the genetic improvement of health and nutrition-related traits in pea. Plant Physiol Biochem. 2021;158:353-362. doi:10.1016/j.plaphy.2020.11.020
Fresán U, Sabaté J. Vegetarian Diets: Planetary Health and Its Alignment with Human Health. Adv Nutr. 2019;10(Suppl_4):S380-S388. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz019