What Are Pulses

Pulses are the superfood that you should be eating. Read more on these delicious legumes and get tips on how to incorporate them into your diet. 

If you are like most people, you have probably never of pulses. However, it is just a matter of time before you will hear about these foods as they are chocked full of benefits. You probably have pulses in your pantry right now. Pulses are the edible seeds of the legume family. They include: 

  • Chickpeas – Garbanzo beans, desi, kabuli
  • Dry beans – Pinto, black, kidney, lima, navy, blackeye  
  • Fava beans – Broad beans 
  • Dry peas – Split green, split yellow, whole green, whole yellow 
  • Lentils – Green, red, small brown, French green 
  • Bambara beans 
  • Pigeon peas
  • Cowpeas  
  • Lupins 
  • Vetches 
  • Cowpeas 

While pulses have been getting more popular as of late. They are not new. Pulses have been grown in the Middle East for more than 10,000 years. There is evidence that pulses were a dietary staple among some of the earliest human civilizations. Today, more than 200 countries worldwide grow and import hundreds of varieties of pulses. Although the pulse category includes a variety of legumes, all pulses have these things in common: 

  • Good source of plant-based protein. Pulses are a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. 
  • High in fiber. Foods high in fiber help you stay full longer. 
  • Low in fat. Pulses are low in fat, which helps weight loss efforts. 
  • Packed with nutrients. Pulses have folate, iron, potassium, and other nutrients. 

What Are The Differences Between Pulses And Legumes? 

Legumes are the fruits or seeds of the Fabaceae family of plants. Legumes include peanuts, peas, lentils, and beans. Pulses are part of the legume family but they refer only to the dry edible seed contained within the pod. Pulses are harvested when dry. Other legumes are harvested while still green. Pulses have a different nutrition profile than peanuts, soy, and other legumes. For example, pulses are much lower in fat than many of these other legumes. For example, one cup of chickpeas has just over 4 grams of fat while one cup of peanuts has 71 grams of fat. Chickpeas are a much lower-fat stand-in for peanuts in homemade trail mix.  

Why Add Pulses To Your Diet? 

Do you need even more reasons to add pulses to your diet? Here are some reasons why pulses should be a part of every meal. 

Promotes Sustainable Agriculture 

Buying pulses helps promote sustainable agriculture. Since pulses use soil bacteria to take nitrogen directly from the air, farmers don’t need to use nitrogen fertilizers in pulse crops. This uses half of the energy of similar crops and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 

Pulses help improve soil health. They produce a variety of compounds that feed soil microbes. After the crops are harvested, pulses leave behind nitrogen-rich crop nutrients, which benefits future crops grow in the soil. 

Pulse crops use less much less water than other crops. They require just 1/10 the amount of water compared to other sources of protein. Since pulses adapt well to dry environments, they are especially well-suited for areas that are prone to drought.

Great For Your Food Budget 

If your food budget is tight, then we have good news for you. Pulses are among the cheapest foods that you can buy. You can maximize both nutrition and savings by cooking with pulses. For example, a 16-ounce bag of La Preferida Black Beans cost $1.29 at a local Fresno, California Kroger store. One pound of dry black beans will make about seven cups of cooked black beans, which is 14 servings. This means that one serving of black beans costs just $.09. 

Stock up when pulses are on sale and you can save even more. Since they keep forever, keep pulses in your pantry at all times.  

Versatile 

Pulses are extremely versatile and can be used in all kinds of recipes. You can use them for stews, soups, spreads, dips and even desserts. You can also swap them out with other ingredients in your recipes to amp up the flavor and nutrition. Pulses are a cheaper alternative to red meat. And, they are a great stand-in for meat. Combined with the right seasonings, pulses make tasty vegetarian burgers. 

Incredibly Healthy 

Pulses are nutrition powerhouses. Here are some nutrition facts about pulses. This comparison will focus mainly on legumes. But, all pulses have similar nutrition profiles. 

  • Excellent source of fiber. One serving of legumes has 7 grams of fiber, which is about 28 percent of your total daily intake (based on a 2,000 calorie diet). 
  • Great source of plant-based protein. Pulses provide 9 grams of plant-based protein per serving. This is almost as much as tofu. 
  • Cholesterol free. Legumes are cholesterol-free making them great for anyone on a heart-healthy diet.  
  • Low fat. Legumes have less than .6g of fat per serving. Reduced fat can help kickstart weight loss. 
  • Low in sodium. Pulses are naturally low in sodium, which is another reason why they are great for heart health. 
  • Rich in iron. Iron is an essential nutrient that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Pulses are a great source of iron. One serving supplies 11 percent of your total iron for the day.

Reduces The Risk of Chronic Disease  

Pulses are a great dietary staple for anyone with diabetes or heart disease. Since they are low in carbohydrates, pulses help keep blood sugar levels more stable. Pulses contain a high amount of fiber, which can help slow the absorption of sugar and improve overall blood sugar levels. 

Eating pulses is a good way to keep your heart in great shape. They contain low levels of sodium. Eating less sodium can reduce your risk for high blood pressure and heart problems. The high fiber content in pulses can also help reduce the risk of heart problems. 

Cooking With Pulses 

Pulses are extremely easy to incorporate into your meals. These superfoods are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Pulses take on any flavor so they are great in recipes. Here are some tips for cooking with them. 

Cooking Tips 

  • Soak beans and chickpeas before cooking. Use just enough water to cover the beans or chickpeas completely. Soak overnight for at least eight hours. If you do not have time to soak the pulses overnight, cover them with water and boil. Chickpeas should be boiled for three minutes while beans for at least three minutes. Then, let them stand for one hour. Drain and then wash the pulses in cool water.
  • Lentils and dried peas do not have to soak. Simply rinse these pulses in water and cook them. For every cup of lentils, use two and a half cups water. If you are cooking dry peas, you can reduce the water to two cups. 
  • Make sure you cook dry beans thoroughly. Uncooked dry beans contain a toxin called lectin. This toxin can cause severe vomiting, stomach ache, and diarrhea. You don’t have to eat many beans to get sick either. According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating just four undercooked red kidney beans can cause symptoms. Fortunately, cooking the beans destroys lectin. To make sure beans are cooked all the way through, combine two cups of water for every cup of beans and cook at a hard rolling boil for at least 30 minutes. After boiling, you can simmer beans on low for up to two hours.   

Storage Tips 

  • Pantry. Store dry pulses in the pantry for up to one year. Unopened canned pulses will stay good for two years. 
  • Refrigerator. Cooked or open pulses can stay good in the refrigerator for up to five days. Just make sure you put them in a sealed container. 
  • Freezer. Store cooked pulses for up to six months in a closed freezer bag. 

Meal Ideas

Make Healthy Swaps 

Pulses are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and protein, which makes them great for swapping with other less-healthy ingredients in recipes. Try the following healthy pulse swaps. 

  • Lasagna. Swap pureed white beans for ricotta cheese measure for measure. You’ll get more fiber, fewer calories, and less fat. 
  • Chili. Trade kidney or black beans for the ground beef. This will decrease fat and increase fiber. Plus, beans are cheaper than ground beef, which makes this a great swap for your food budget too. 
  • Veggie bowls. Veggie bowls are easy to prepare and satisfying. Adding pulses makes them even more filling. Simply, replace the quinoa with cooked green lentils. This move increases fiber and protein. The extra fiber will help you feel full longer. 
  • Sandwich spread – Hummus makes a great sandwich spread. Simply replace the mayonnaise with hummus. This creamy spread is full of protein and fiber. 
  • Brownies. Pulses can even be used when baking treats. Simply swap one can of pureed black beans (15 ounces) per cup of flour. 

How to Get Kids to Eat Pulses 

Pulses are the superfood that you want your kids to eat. They are nutritious and filling. Unforutenly, beans, and dried peas are not likely to drum up much enthusiasm among kids. But, that does not mean that you should give up on trying to get your kids to eat pulses. 

Adding pulses to your kids’ diet can help them maintain a healthy weight, improve digestion and more. Fortuenyl, it is easy to get kids to eat pulses. You just have to get creative. Here are some sneaky ways to add more pulses to your kid’s meals. Chances are that they won’t even know these foods are healthy. 

Make It Fun

One of the best ways to get kids to eat pulses is to make it fun. The Global Pulse Confederation has all kinds of games on their website related to pulse foods. The Secret Life of Pulses is a really fun activity sheet for kids. Unexpected Heroes Save the Day is another fun activity sheet. 

Get Them Involved 

Getting kids involved in cooking pulses can make them excited about the dishes that they create. They are much more likely to eat pulses when they are excited about making them. Try some of these kid-friendly recipes. 

Blueberry Smoothie 

This kid-friendly vegan smoothie is super easy to make. It is a great start to the day. It provides the nutrients needed to help school-age kids get through the day. Made with almond milk, pea protein powder, and frozen blueberries, this smoothie is incredibly healthy too. Plus, it couldn’t be simpler to make. With supervision, almost any kid can help out. Simply throw all of the ingredients in the blender and mix. 

Roasted Chickpea Snack Mix 

This fiber-filled snack mix is a great after-school snack. Chickpeas have a crunchy, nutty texture when roasted, which is delicious. Plus, this snack mix is easy to make and inexpensive. Check out the recipe on Well Plated by Erin.

Sneak Pulses Into Everyday Foods 

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat more pulses is to sneak them into everyday foods. You can make easy swaps in many common recipes and no one will be the wiser. Here are some ideas:

  • Swap lentils for taco meat. Tacos are an easy kid-friendly meal any day of the week. Make taco night a lot healthier by swapping out the ground beef with lentils. The kids will never know that these tacos are not made with beef. 
  • Replace all-purpose flour with chickpea flour in muffins. You can replace up to ½ cup all-purpose flour for chickpea flour in any muffin recipe. This will add protein, fiber, folate, and iron to these breakfast treats.
  • Use hummus instead of mayonnaise on turkey sandwiches. Hummus makes a great sandwich spread. It has less fat and more fiber and protein than mayo. Hummus really tastes great on turkey sandwiches but you can use it for other ones too. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, pulses are a highly versatile group of foods that can be used in various way in the kitchen. You cannot go wrong by adding more pulses to your diet. They are healthy, affordable and support sustainable agricultural practices. Get everyone in the whole family eating healthier with pulses. 

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