Let’s Get A Pulse On Pulses

by Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Last Updated: March 1, 2021

Plant-based food trends have skyrocketed in the last few years thanks to many new meat alternatives hitting the grocery store shelves. As plant-forward eating trends continue to grow in popularity, we want to highlight a group of foods that has been a staple in diets for thousands of years and give it a moment to shine. This group is pulses-- including dried beans, peas, and lentils. Pulses are rich in health benefits, flavor, versatility, and of course, taste.

All about pulses.
Pulses are the edible seed of plants in the legume family. They grow in pods and come in various shapes, colors, and sizes. The first evidence of pulses comes from 11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East, home to some of the earliest civilizations. Approximately 173 different countries grow and export pulses across the world.

Pulses have various nutritious benefits, making a strong case to include them in a balanced diet. Pulses truly are “magical” as they are the only vegetable that offers not only fiber but also plant-based protein. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense plant offerings one can find, as a ½ cup serving of pulses can offer up to 20% of the daily value of dietary fiber, manganese, and folate. Additionally, it can provide 10% of the daily value of protein, potassium, iron, and copper. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, and these sources of fiber can help manage blood sugar levels, body weight, help lower cholesterol, and assist with digestion. As a bonus, adding fiber to meals may help with feeling fuller and more content by the end of it.

In addition to being beneficial to the human diet, they are healthy for the planet’s environment. Pulses are amongst the most sustainable foods, with one of the lowest carbon footprints of any food group. Many pulses are adapted to dry environments, making them well-suited for areas prone to drought. They only require ½ to 1/10 of the water of other protein sources.

Buying and preparing pulses.
Pulses can be found in various forms in the grocery store, including canned or dried. Canned varieties have already been soaked and cooked, making these a convenient and quick source of protein that can be added to salads or heated up as a side dish. Those watching sodium content should aim to purchase “no-added salt” or “low sodium” varieties. Draining and rinsing canned pulses is an easy way to reduce the sodium added during the canning process.

Dried pulses should be soaked and cooked before being eaten. Check the packaging first and follow directions to get the best results as cooking times vary depending on the pulse type.

Takeaways about pulses.
Pulses are moderately sustainable and inexpensive, rich in protein and fiber, and satisfying! Pulses generally offer a neutral flavor making them versatile to blend with other ingredients and pair well with various seasonings. Stay tuned for a blog all about the best recipes to enjoy pulses!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria is a dedicated dietitian with a love for helping others develop a positive relationship with food, while setting realistic goals. Victoria has professional experience with various conditions such as strokes, diabetes and weight management. She strives to make a nutritious lifestyle attainable for all. You can catch Victoria scratch-cooking at home, trying new workouts at her local gym or spending time with her dog, Jack.