People aren’t eating pulses—a category of food that includes beans, lentils, and peas—due to lack of awareness and tradition, research in Europe finds.

Pulses, which have two- to three-times the protein as cereals, could replace meat protein while being sustainable and climate friendly.

Pulses have a unique ability to capture nitrogen from the air and fix it to soil to create fertilizer, which benefits other plants as well. This makes the need for additional fertilizer negligible, as well as the crop’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In her studies, Katharina Henn aimed to get an overview of pulse consumption across Europe, and in doing so, identify the obstacles that challenge consumers. The findings appear in the journals Food Quality and PreferenceFood Research International, and Future Foods.

People in Denmark have roughly average knowledge of pulses, they come in last place for quantity and variety of pulses eaten.

Conversely, while pulse awareness among the British is at the low end, consumption is midway to the top, below Poland and Spain. The results don’t explain whether this is because baked beans are popular in the UK. However, UK health authorities do include baked beans among their daily fruit and vegetable intake recommendations.

According to Henn, “there’s nothing wrong with canned beans. It’s a common misconception among consumers that canned foods are unhealthy. They may come in a sugary sauce, but the beans are fine.”

Spain is at the top of the class when it comes to awareness, the variation of pulses used and total consumption. The country’s historic interaction with Middle Eastern culinary traditions could be the reason. Regardless, pulses are a natural part of Spain’s Mediterranean diet, notes Henn. In Germany, her own country, the traditions have been forgotten.

“In Germany, there were once many traditional dishes that included pulses, such as lentil and sausage stew. But they’ve gone out of fashion. This partly explains why Germans know so much about pulses, but don’t have a matching appetite for them,” explains Henn.

Henn thinks that the solution to the low consumption is to build European traditions instead of focusing on meat-like substitutes.

Read the full article about pulses at Futurity .