Pulses seem to have flown under the radar as a nutritious ingredient in many meals – partially because there is some confusion as to what they really are. Here’s everything that you need to know about pulses and how to incorporate them in your diet!
So what is a pulse?
Pulses are the dry edible seeds of pod plants in the legume family. You might recognize them more commonly as things like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and dry peas (this does not include fresh green beans and peas). They are a great source of both protein and fibre, while also being low in fat and relatively low in calories. Soybeans and peanuts are also not considered pulses because they have a much higher fat content.
Why should I incorporate pulses into my diet?
Pulses are a great addition to any diet not only because of their nutritional profile, but because they are also environmentally sustainable and are often grown right here in Canada! When growing, pulses and legumes fix nitrogen into the soil, which reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
Research has also shown that eating pulses can lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and help with body weight management. In fact, pulse consumption is often recommended by cancer, diabetes and heart health organizations around the world, and the carbohydrates in pulses also increase good bacteria in your digestive system, which helps to promote healthy digestion.
Aren’t pulses the… ‘musical fruit’?
It is somewhat commonly known that a large quantity of beans or other pulses can be associated with digestive discomfort. If you start by eating small amounts of pulses, drink lots of water, and gradually increase your intake over time, your gut can adapt and the effects associated with increased bean consumption will decrease. Some extra tips include rinsing canned pulses thoroughly before using or trying Beano® (an anti-gas pill, available at most grocery and drug stores). Rinsing and draining canned beans for ten seconds can also help to reduce the sodium content by an average of 41% (which is especially good for people watching their blood pressure)!
How do I get started with pulses?
You can find pulses in most grocery stores, either dry or canned, and they are quite cost effective compared to other protein rich foods. Pulses are also becoming more common among health conscious consumers. You can now buy pasta made from lentil and/or chickpea flour, chips made from beans, and health bars made with pea protein. Baked goods made from bean/lentil flour are also becoming more popular (black bean brownies anyone?). They also fit into many eating patterns such as a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle.
If you want to start incorporating more pulses into your diet, aim for 3/4 cups a few times per week, and check out the 10 tips below!
10 ways to include more pulses in your diet:
- Double the amount of beans in chili recipes and reduce the amount of red meat by half (or omit it completely and make a vegetarian chili)
- Sneak beans into pureed soups. Use a hand blender to puree a can of navy beans into tomato soup or a can of cannellini beans into mushroom soup – you won’t even know they’re there!
- Try them in baking. Replace half the butter or oil in a recipe when baking with a lentil purée to lower the fat.
- Add cooked/canned lentils to any cooked grain (quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, etc.). Try them in this chickpea quinoa salad!
- Toss ½ cup of chickpeas into any salad
- Eat raw veggies with hummus
- Add a can of black beans to scrambled eggs or omelets
- Mash beans with any kind of seasoning and use as a spread or filling in sandwiches and wraps. Top with sliced avocado, cucumber, tomato, and a slice of cheese
- Snack on a handful of roasted chickpeas
- Add canned beans to your favorite smoothie for a boost of protein and fiber. Berry-based smoothies can be blended with black beans, and any other type of smoothie can be blended with white beans