If you regularly catch nutrition headlines, you’ve probably seen a new buzzword lately: pulses. Except it’s really not new at all, just not commonly used outside the nutrition profession.
Collectively, pulses encompass
beans, peas, and lentils.
Pulses are a subgroup of legumes (plants with fruit enclosed in a pod). Pulses are legumes whose fruit is harvested dry. They’ve long been part of diets all over the world, mainly because they’re pretty easy to grow, fill you up, and pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. Based on the 2015-2020 USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended you consume 1 to 2 cups of pulses (canned or cooked from dry) per week as part of your veggie intake – as well as part of your protein intake! (A 1/4 cup of pulses can replace 1oz of protein in your protein needs.)
Here are five reasons why you need to include them in your balanced fueling:
- They’re super high in fiber. A 1/2 cup serving has 20% or more of the DV (Daily Value) of fiber (and also of folate and manganese!). Fiber keeps you regular, helps you keep cholesterol in check, helps control blood sugar levels, assists in weight management…Basically, it’s awesome and you need more of it.
- Pulses are also a great plant-based source of protein. A serving has about 10% of the DV of protein. If you’re working on moving toward a more plant-based diet (which is a good idea for everyone), use pulses to replace some of the meat in your dishes. (Note that they are incomplete proteins that are perfectly paired with grains to form a complete protein source.)
- Additionally, pulses are high in all of the following: potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium, zinc, and phytochemicals such as alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, and phenolic compounds.
- If you’ve got medical reasons to remove gluten from your diet, pulses are a great alternative. They are naturally gluten-free and can be used to replace gluten-containing grains in side dishes and even in baking recipes (look for pulse-based flours in the baking aisle of your grocery store, or whip up the cooking liquid from beans to replace eggs in recipes).
- They’re super budget-friendly. They’re cheap to grow (and actually good for the planet, with a low carbon- and water-footprint, and they leave the soil better than they found it). You can buy them dry and soak them yourself (quick soaking, overnight soaking, pressure cooking, slow cooker method…click here for some tips), or you can use the canned version (look for ones without added salt). Either way, your food budget will thank you!
If you’re not used to eating pulses, introduce them slowly to let your system adjust. As humans we don’t have the enzymes needed to break down some of the sugars in pulses, which can lead to gas formation. The good news is that your system can get used to this; just give it some time.
So have some breakfast burritos, snack on some hummus, and grab a blackbean burger. But maybe not all in the same day…ha.