The Plusses Of Pulses

Jackie NewgentBy Jackie Newgent, RDN
Culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook

As a registered dietitian, nutritionist and chef who is passionate about plant-based cuisine, I am committed to showing how a plant-centered plate can be both nutritious and flavorful – and also good for the planet. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, so what better time to promote the benefits of these amazing little foods!

Love Pulses Handout

Pulses, including lentils, beans (such as kidney, navy, butter), peas and chickpeas, are affordable and accessible to Americans, conveniently in cans, but also in their dried, bagged form. They are a source of reliable nutrition for people around the world and can be enjoyed year-round. Check out these 3 need-to-know facts about pulses:


Pulses are Nutrient Powerhouses

Pulses are calorie-friendly and loaded with good nutrition, especially complex carbohydrates, micronutrients, protein and B-vitamins, which are vital parts of a healthy diet. They are packed with folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Since they’re naturally low in fat and rich in fiber, enjoying pulses can play a notable role in helping to manage digestive health and regulate energy levels. They also help protect against type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol and certain cancers. Canned or bagged, there is virtually no difference in nutritional value. It is incredible that so much goodness is packed into such a small, but delicious and versatile package!


Cuisines Around the Globe Rely on Pulses

Cultures all over the world incorporate pulses into their recipes. From Africa and Asia to the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, pulses are a staple in many different cuisines — traditional and non-traditional. Canned varieties make it especially easy to experiment with different recipes – just open a can, drain and rinse before adding them to other ingredients. One of the best and most satisfying ways to enjoy pulses is in combination with grains – such as in my Green Tea Pesto Pasta or Creole Vegan Jambalaya – providing an excellent balance of essential amino acids. A little vitamin C in the form of a squeeze of citrus juice or sprinkling of fruit, as in my Power Greens, Papaya and Black Bean Taco Bowl, also helps boost iron absorption, complements the earthy taste of pulses and makes for a refreshing summertime meal.


Pulses are One of the Most Sustainable Crops

As concern over climate change, sustainability and food security continues to increase, growing and eating more pulses can help alleviate environmental strain. Pulses require significantly less water and fertilizer to grow than many other plants. As a steady source of nutrition for humans and feed for food animals, pulse crops play a major role in food security. Finally, pulses have a low food waste footprint as they can be stored in cans or dried for long periods of time while retaining their nutritional value.

The nutritional and flavor benefits of pulses are increasingly becoming recognized, as people look for healthful ways to improve their diet. Select a variety of canned and dried pulses from the shelves of your local grocery store and look for them on the menu of your favorite restaurants. Pulses are truly culinary “gems” of a healthy kitchen!