The protein power of pulses is just one of the many reason to make them an important addition to your healthy diet for 2016.

Have you heard about Pulses? They have been around for 10,000 years and are among the most extensively used foods in the world and this year everyone is talking about them.

Pulses are part of the legume family. Legume refers to the plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod such as fresh peas and beans. Pulses however, are the edible dried seeds of the plants and are only those crops harvested solely for dry grain with lentils, chickpeas, beans and dried yellow and green peas being the most common pulses. Soy beans and peanuts are related to pulses because they are also the edible seeds of podded plants, but they differ due to their much higher fat content; pulses contain virtually no fat.

Why is everyone talking about pulses now? Recently the 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses and since Canada’s pulse industry meets the needs of over 150 markets around the globe, this is good news for Canadians. Over the past 20 years, Canada has emerged as the world’s largest exporter of lentils and peas, and one of the world’s top five exporters of beans. But it is their protein and nutrition profile that has us cheering.

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses

The protein power of pulses make them an important food for maintaining a healthy diet with an average of 15grams of protein per cup. Pulses are very high in protein and fibre, as well as a significant source of iron, zinc, folate, thiamin, niacin, potassium and magnesium. They are low in fat and consuming just 1/2cup a day, can reduce LDL-cholesterol levels which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Pulses such as lentils, peas, chickpeas and navy, black, roman, pinto, and kidney beans are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people who do not eat, or wish to cut down on, red meat. Pulses typically contain almost twice as much protein as whole grain cereals like wheat, oats, barley and rice but should be eaten in combination with grains as part of a healthy vegetarian diet to ensure you are getting all the essential amino acids usually found in meat sources.

Although high in carbohydrates, pulses have a low glycemic index which means they do not cause a fast rise in blood sugar making them beneficially for those with or at risk of diabetes.

The soluable and insoluable fibre content of pulses helps with digestion and make these tiny beans more filling than other foods, which helps you maintain a healthy diet.

Environmental Benefit of Pulses

In addition to their high protein content and nutritional profile and links to improved health, pulses are unique foods in their ability to reduce the environmental footprint. Pulses require little to no nitrogen fertilizer meaning they use half the nonrenewable energy inputs of other crops. Like their cousins in the legume family, pulses have nitrogen-fixing properties which can contribute to increasing the soil fertility, reduce global greenhouse gas emission and improve the environmental sustainability of annual crops.

With so many nutritional and environmental benefits, there is good reason for pulses to become the new superfood of 2016.

Favorite Recipes Made Healthier with Pulses

Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating ¾ cup of pulses as an alternative to meat. They can be eaten everyday but drink plenty of water and add this high protein and high fibre food to your diet gradually to avoid gas and bloating.

Adding pulses to your usual meals to increase the protein is easy and convenient with canned chickpeas and beans but you may choose to used dried, just remember to soak them overnight beforehand. Lentils are a small and very quick cooking pulse, so using the dried bean is often a simple way to add protein and fibre to any dish. Which ever you choose, thoroughly rinse canned or pre-soaked pulses before cooking.

Pulses come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and can be consumed in many forms including whole or split, ground in to flours or cooked and pureed.

Lentils in your morning smoothie, black beans on your salad, lima beans in your chili or add chickpeas to your pasta give you added protein throughout the day. Get creative, pulses are super versatile. Try some of these suggestions from the Pulse Canada website to add pulses to your diet for 2016 and enjoy all the health benefits of this superfood while helping our environment!

Salsa with Black Beans, Lime Juice and Corn
Pureed Chickpeas Hummus Dip
Roasted Chickpeas for a crunchy snack
Lentil Burgers
Split Pea Soup
Baked Beans
Chickpeas and Cauliflower Curry
Black Bean Dip
Curry Lentil Dip
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Greek Lentil Salad
Lentil Granola Bars
Shrimp Ceviche with Chickpeas

 

Sources:
Canadian Data Research Center Network –http://www.rdc-cdr.ca/nutritional-and-health-benefits-pulses
Pulse Canada – http://www.pulsecanada.com/food-health/nutritional-benefits