It’s the International Year of Pulses, which means that pulses are in the spotlight. If you’re not familiar with the word pulses, they’re the edible seeds from legumes and include dry beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
Most people can benefit from eating more pulses. They are low in fat and have protein, iron, B vitamins and are a great source of fibre. Eating the recommended amount of daily fibre can help you stay at a healthy body weight, which can help reduce your risk of cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Studies show that a high fibre intake may protect against colorectal cancer. Pulses also have plant substances and antioxidants that may contain anti-cancer properties. You can replace some of the red meat in your meals with pulses, which may help reduce your risk of cancer.
At the grocery store, you’ll find pulses dried, canned and ground into flour. There are also many new food products made with pulses or with pulses added. Though some of these products are healthy, some are not. For example, cookies made with pulses are likely still high in sugar and calories.
Cooking dried pulses is simple. One cup (250 mL) of dry pulses yields about 2-3 cups (500–750 mL) of cooked pulses. First, sort pulses to remove any shrivelled beans or small pebbles, then rinse in a sieve with cold water. Next, add seasonings, pulses and 3 cups (750 mL) of water for each cup of pulses, to a pot. Cook on the stovetop until soft. The cooking time depends on the type of pulse:
- Split red lentils cook in 10-15 minutes.
- Split peas and whole lentils cook in 40-45 minutes.
- Dried beans, chickpeas and whole peas cook in 45 minutes-1 hours and need to be soaked ahead of time.
- Pulses can also be cooked in the oven or in a slow cooker.
Canned pulses, like beans or lentils, are quick and easy to use. Choose cans that are labelled “low sodium” or “no salt added,” or rinse and drain regular canned beans and lentils before eating. Rinsing regular beans will get rid of some of the unwanted salt.
Tip: A 540 mL can of pulses equals about 2 cups (500 mL) of cooked pulses.
Pulse flours like chickpea or black bean flour are available at many grocery or bulk food stores. They are higher in fibre and protein than most grain flours. For best results, use in recipes that ask for pulse flour.
Put Pulses On Your Menu
Pulses cost less than meat and taste great in salads, casseroles, soups and dips. Keep canned pulses in your cupboard or cook dried pulses ahead of time. Once cooked, pulses can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for several months.
Try adding pulses to your favourite dishes or make a meatless meal each week. Here are some tips for eating more pulses:
- Add puréed white beans to mashed potatoes.
- In recipes like meat sauce, stir-fry, curry, or stew, swap pulses for half of the meat.
- Spread refried beans on a tortilla and top with grated cheese to make quesadillas.
- Sprinkle cooked chickpeas on a salad.
- Add cooked lentils or black beans to tacos or burritos.
- Use red kidney beans in chili instead of ground beef.
- Purée cooked black beans, and then add herbs and spices for an easy dip.
- Stir split peas or lentils into soup.
- Blend white beans into fruit smoothies.
For more information, visit the Global Pulse Federation: iyp2016.org.