Eat your peas. They’re good for you…and for Canada

If Ottawa squandered $870,000 on some meaningless or questionable initiative, media and other critics would climb down politicians’ throats.

But when it decides to do something good for farmers, for the nation and even for the world with that amount of money – such as Tuesday’s funding announcement for research into what are called “pulse” crops, like peas and lentils – no one bats an eye.

However, they should.

In some circles, pulses are considered an important key to better health. Ottawa says pulses reduce cardio-vascular diseases by lowering serum cholesterol, blood pressure and the likelihood of obesity. They’re high in fibre, low in fat, local food.

Check, check, check. Superfood, no question.

And would people eat more of them if their virtues were sung from coast to coast to coast? Maybe. Hopefully.

Another fact few people know is that Canada is the world’s largest exporter of peas and lentils, providing nearly 40 per cent of global needs.

That’s huge! Canada is the Pea Capital of the Galaxy. Who knew? Again, more people should be told.

It says something about the topic when even during the dog days of January, a story like this isn’t met with at least a little fanfare. I think it would have a better chance of getting picked up in the spring when people are thinking about planting their gardens, and peas and other pulses – or anything green, for that matter — are more on their radar.

But that’s not when farmers are available for conferences, at which announcements like this are sometimes made.

This week, many Saskatchewan farmers gathered for a very popular event called CropSphere, in Saskatoon. I, along with RealAgriculture.com colleague Lyndsey Smith, was asked to speaking to the group about how to get agricultural stories into the media.

So I was particularly keen on the pea-and-lentil funding announcement, because the federal minister of agriculture was there too, unveiling the pulse funds, as part of a bigger announcement in support of agricultural research and marketing.

To me, the key to grabbing the spotlight (outside of agriculture) with stories like this is to highlight their influence on the health of Canadians, and others worldwide.

Pulses are a preventative medicine.  If you can make peas and lentils more a part of your diet, and prevent high blood pressure and a potential stroke, who wouldn’t?

I’m in. It beats medication. And preventative medicine takes some heat off the health care system. All taxpayers and governments should care about that.

Now, peas and lentils won’t make people get up off the couch. And that’s a huge problem. We keep looking for a superfood that will cure our reluctance to exercise, but have yet to find one. Nutrition is a great start to a healthier health regime, but it can’t solve the dilemma of inactivity.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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