2016 has been proclaimed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the International Year of Pulses! You may be wondering, “Exactly, what is a pulse?”

A pulse is the edible seeds of a group of legumes eaten by humans and animals. Some of these include chick peas, kidney beans, navy beans, fava beans (broad beans), split peas, black eyed peas, mung beans and lentils. In addition, the seeds from the flower lupine and bambara beans from West Africa which is like our peanut are also considered pulses.

Here are just a few reasons to get your pulses several times a week:

1.They are nutritious!

  • A great source of protein. They can be used instead of meat in many main dishes like soups, salads, dals (which are pea or lentil stews) or dips.
  • Rich in iron which is better absorbed when vitamin C is available at the same time and it is paired with a grain like rice, quinoa or corn. They are also good sources of calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
  • Low in fat, sodium and high in fiber.  The fiber helps increase satiety and may help reduce the LDL cholesterol which can help prevent heart disease.
  • -gluten-free
  • Low on the glycemic index which can help stabilize blood sugar in diabetics.
  • Contain bio-active compounds such as phytochemicals and anti-oxidants.  Many of these may be anti-cancer.
  • May prevent cognitive decline and help improve bone health.

2. They are easy!


Once beans are cooked ahead of time there are a variety of ways to prepare them! There are also a variety of canned beans that can be used to make a quick and tasty meal!

3. They are economical.

At an average cost of 10 cents per ounce, pulses are quite a bargain

4. They are delicious!

Using recipes from around the world, beans can be seasoned so many ways and can be so flavorful that they melt in your mouth!

5.They help reduce your carbon footprint!

Pulses can help add back needed nitrogen in the soil so it needs less fertilizer. Also eating beans from protein can help reduce climate change over growing animals because fewer resources like water are needed and growing them causes less pollution!

When looking over the list of all the benefits of pulses, it surprises me that more people who don’t take advantage of their goodness. Some of the reasons include being unfamiliar with the flavor of them and how to cook them.  The sugar and fiber in beans can cause bloating and gas in many people.  A few ways that pulses can become easier to digest include soaking, sprouting, fermenting and pounding them.

Guidelines for Soaking Pulses:  Lentils and peas don’t have to be soaked so they may save you time when using them. The US Dry Bean Council shares Several Ways to Soak Beans

How to Sprout Pulses:  Vertical Veg has an interesting blog post on making sprouts out of beans, peas or lentils. I found their pictures very helpful. You can check it out at Vertical Veg

Examples of Fermenting Pulses: Tempeh  and natto are made by the fermentation of soy beans which helps break them down making them easier to digest.  Fermented black beans are also popular in Chinese food. Although, I have eaten tempeh for many years, I am relatively new to the whole world of eating and making fermented pulses but found some great information on making them at Cultures for Health

Pounding Pulses: Peas and lentils are often purchased split to help them cook faster Peas, beans and they also can be made into some tasty flours, check  some recipes using pea flour at Recipe Ideas Using Pea Flour

I will be sharing some bean, pea and lentil recipe inspiration in an upcoming blog on some of my favorite ways to eat them. You can also find FAO Recipe Ideas I love their map of how many of the countries from around the world pair beans and grains!

 

Two dietitians, Janice and Liz have done a wonderful recipe round up of pulses. Check these out at Meal Makeover Moms

I hope that you find learning about pulses and the importance of adding them in your meal plan as much as I do! As a nutritionist and dietitian in Asheville, I love to help clients eat healthier to live better! You can find out more about some of the ways I can help here!

black and white beans

Try a variety of colors with your pulses as you would other plant foods.

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