Pulses: The New (Old) Superfood?

by Debora Palmieri, BASc., R.H.N. | myhealthychoices.ca


Love ‘em or hate ‘em pulses, commonly referred to as legumes, are the newest superfood in town and for good reason! Although, they have been around for thousands of years, pulses are now moving into the spotlight. This year has actually been voted to be the International Year of Pulses (IYOP), by the United Nations General Assembly. For more information on IYOP and this global initiative check out this short video on Pulse Canada: http://www.pulsecanada.com/news-multimedia/pulse-canada-videos.

So what exactly are pulses? They are in fact not legumes but they are part of the legume family. The term pulse refers to the edible seeds of legumes and includes only dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. Are you wondering why pulses are the ‘it’ food of 2016? Check out their nutrient profile and you’ll see why.

Pulses are very high in fibre; just one cup of cooked lentils contains over 15 grams. Considering most people need between 25-35 (or more) grams of fibre per day, including pulses in your diet is a sure way to meet your requirements. Fibre helps to keep the bowels moving and regular bowel movements are necessary for a good digestive system. Consuming adequate fibre is also important for a healthy heart, as it helps to lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Along with fibre, pulses are a great source of plant-based protein. Although pulses don’t supply your body with all of the amino acids that make up protein, you can easily combine them with whole grains like brown rice to make a complete protein meal. The protein and fibre content in pulses helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, which makes them an excellent food for diabetics.

Lastly, pulses are rich in a number of essential vitamins and minerals needed for good health. They contain important minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc and vitamins such as the B-vitamins, folate and niacin. Potassium helps to lower blood pressure and folate is critical during pregnancy and infancy. Also, ensuring adequate intake of both B vitamins and protein is especially imperative for vegetarians/vegans.

Tips for Increasing Your Intake

“Beans beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat the more you…”

It’s not surprising that there’s even a jingle about the gassy effects that beans can have on you and most people avoid pulses because of it. However, there is good news! By gradually increasing your intake of pulses, your digestive system will adapt to this higher fibre and eventually you will no longer have to suffer with that dreaded bloated belly and embarrassing gas. The following are some other effective ways to reduce any discomfort associated with bean/lentil consumption:

  • Drink more water. Any time you increase your fibre consumption, you need to increase your water intake as well.
  • When soaking pulses, change the water a few times and never cook with the water that the pulses have been soaking in. It is also useful to add a strip of kombu seaweed to the soaking water, as it helps to break down undigestible carbohydrates. You can add it to your cooking water too.
  • When using canned beans or lentils be sure to rinse them thoroughly prior to cooking and look for brands which use sea salt or seaweed in their canning liquid.

Getting more pulses into your diet is easier and more delicious than you may think. Plus, the great thing is that because they are so versatile, they can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. I love adding beans and lentils to my veggie soups or sautéing them with leafy greens like kale and rapini. A mixed bean salad with raw veggies always makes a delicious lunch or side to any meal. You can also puree beans to be used as a dip, like hummus, and enjoy it with wholegrain crackers or raw veggie sticks. You can even hide them in tomato sauce for picky eaters. My personal favourite ways to enjoy chickpeas is to roast them for a crunchy snack, mash them up in a veggie wrap, or make chickpea patties to enjoy with a salad. Oh and let’s not forget, if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth you can turn those beans into yummy desserts. How do black bean brownies, chocolate chips blondies, cookies, and even chocolate truffles sound?

Here’s a super simple recipe to get you eating more of this new superfood. This white bean dip makes a healthy and delicious snack!

White Bean Dip

  • 1 ¼ cup navy beans, canned (organic), drained and rinsed well
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½-1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Season to taste with sea salt, black pepper, and Herbamare zesty

Add all ingredients to a food processor. Start with just a pinch each of sea salt, black pepper, and Herbamare zesty. Next, process until smooth. Taste the dip and add more seasoning if needed. Place dip in a bowl and enjoy with whole grain crackers, bean chips, and/or raw veggie sticks like cucumber, red pepper and celery. Keeps in the fridge for 2 days.

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