2016: The Year of Grain Legumes

The same organization that declared 2013 “The Year of Quinoa” predicts yet another superfood will take off in 2016. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently named 2016 the “International Year of the Pulses.” While you may not be familiar with the term “pulses” (also known as grain legumes), chances are they’ve already made their way onto your menu. Black beans, kidney beans, lentils and peas are all examples of highly nutritious, cost-effective grain legumes.

Discover how grain legumes aid both diners and restaurant owners, along with new ways your restaurant can take advantage of this food trend.

Primary health benefits

According to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, eating a handful of grain legumes every day can reduce your risk of heart disease and obesity. Not only do grain legumes lower bad or LDL cholesterol by 5 percent, they also leave diners feeling up to 31 percent more full after a meal. On top of improving heart health, grain legumes are made up of about 20-25 percent protein by weight, which is two times greater than the amount of protein found in wheat and three times more than rice.


At just a fraction of the cost of other protein sources, grain legumes provide farmers with the best bang for their buck. Better yet for farmers, grain legumes put nutrients such as nitrogen back into soil instead of depleting its natural resources. This leads to minimal fertilizer costs and enables farmers to plant grain legumes in fields that are otherwise left barren by previous crops. A high return on investment for farmers coupled with low maintenance will result in more competitive prices for restaurant owners – and wider availability of these resources.

The self-sustaining nature of grain legumes is one food trend farmers all across the U.S. are already beginning to make the most of. The Montana Department of Agriculture predicts more than 1.2 million acres of Montana cropland could feature grain legumes by 2025.

Serving suggestions

Although grain legumes are most widely used in hummus, soups and burritos, this doesn’t mean such dishes are the only way you can take advantage of this new food trend. From appetizers to desserts, there are dozens of ways to bring grain legumes from a farm to your restaurant’s menu. Puree grain legumes to create a dip or incorporate them into a salad. You can even break down grain legumes into a gluten-free flour or protein powder for use in desserts and smoothies. In any case, make sure you pay attention to customer feedback to determine which dishes customers most want to see on your menu.

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