Food and Fitness Fundamentals
Pulses are the edible seeds found inside the pods of legume plants. The most widely known pulses are lentils, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and dried peas. Because pulses come in such a vast variety of colors, shapes, sizes and textures, they are ideal foods that can be added to prepared dishes to enhance flavor and consistency, or simply eaten alone. They can be purchased as canned, bulk, bagged, frozen or fresh. Learn more
Pulses are known for their exquisite health benefits. Studies suggest pulses may be beneficial for people with heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cancer. They are a great source of plant based protein which in turn offers a good alternative for those who strive to reduce their meat consumption. The high fiber and complex carbohydrate content aids with satiety and provides a sense of fullness in between meals which may be helpful for weight management. Legumes have a low glycemic index, which contributes to the stabilization of blood sugar levels after a meal. They are rich in B- complex vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus; many of which are lacking in a typical vegetarian diet. Pulses are low in sodium, saturated fats and are cholesterol free. With the exception of peanuts, they are considered to be a low allergen food. Due to these outstanding nutritional benefits, pulses fit well into the 2010 USDA Guidelines and meet 5 of the 9 foods and nutrients that are suggested to be increased.
Pulses may be considered as either a vegetable or protein food source according to www.myplate.gov. Recommended consumption for protein in the average adult is 5-6.5 ounces per day for a 2,000 calorie diet. Consuming 1.5 cups of cooked pulse meets this recommendation. For vegetable replacement, it is a straight forward cup per cup conversion: 2.5-3 cups of cooked whole or mashed pulse per day.
A classic example of a pulse food is the lentil. They are extremely diverse when it comes to size and color as they range from tan/yellow, orange, crimson red, dark speckled blue-green and brown to black. They are small lens shaped seeds and have different cooking and preparation needs depending whether they are whole, ground, sprouted, or with the husks removed. Lentils are often used in soups, salads and rice dishes, as well as poultry, pork and other protein entrees.
Chickpeas come in two main varieties. Kabuli is a large seed that is light in color and has a smooth outer texture. On the other hand, Desi is a smaller seed that has a darker rough coat. Chickpeas have a nutty buttery soft texture and are often used in soups, salads and ground into dips and spreads such as hummus.
As you can see, pulses are indeed the seeds of life. In my next blog, I will discuss less known yet exciting culinary uses for these foods.