“Pump up the Pulses”

Lesley Baradel

Year of the Pulses

You might be thinking, “Pulses? I know how to take my pulse but not sure how I can eat it….” And truth be told, it was only recently that we heard of the term “pulses” ourselves. Maybe we were asleep that day in our Nutrition 101 class….

Pulses are gaining the attention they deserve, however, as the United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the Year of the Pulses. So what are pulses? They are part of the legume family, which of course we know very  well (and love to eat!) as they are  nutrition powerhouses and something people  need to be eating more of in their  diet for both the nutrients they provide and potential blood cholesterol-lowering effects. 


*Image from Pulse Canada

Pulses are being celebrated because of the their contribution of protein, fiber and many vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, folate and other B vitamins. They are also a sustainable crop from the standpoint that they help fix nitrogen issues in the soil and have a small carbon footprint. One of the ways that pulses differ from their legume cousins is that pulses are much lower in fat. 

As seen in the graphic above, there are 4 types of pulses: 

1. Dried Beans

There are so many different varieties of dried beans to choose, including: black beans, cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, navy beans, etc. All are good choices and can be purchased in their dry form, soaked and cooked. Using a slow cooker or a pressure cooker makes this task much easier. Of course many are available canned, which make these super convenient to drain, rinse and throw in a dish.

Beans are a great way to introduce pulses to your family, especially if you add to dishes that traditionally have meat in them. Adding beans helps you use less meat, which helps stretch your food dollar as well as boost the nutrition in the meal like in this dish:

Chicken Sausage and Bean Rotini Pasta

Chicken Sausage and Bean Rotini Pasta


2. Dried Peas

The most common dried peas you’ll find in stores are green  split peas and black-eyed peas. Split peas do not require soaking like beans before cooking, though black-eyed peas do if bought in their dried form. Split peas are usually made into a soup. Canned black-eyed peas are readily found in most major supermarkets though to make it a more convenient option. In the South black-eyed peas are generally linked to good luck and fortune if eaten on New Year’s Day, but really they can be eaten any time and are quite versatile. Black-eyed peas can be used in a variety of dishes from soups to dips and salads like this one: 

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Black-Eyed Pea Salad


3. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are another type of pulse that are  very  versatile. Chickpeas are  most often found canned in grocery stores, though they can also be purchased in a dried form then soaked and cooked like other beans. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus and falafel, but are  also a great addition to salads, soups, stews and pasta dishes in their  whole form. They can even be roasted for a crunchy snack or as part of a dish like this one: 

Easy Mediterranean Chickpea Bake

Easy Mediterranean Chickpea Bake


4. Lentils

Lentils are another type of pulse, which come in a variety of colors. Brown are commonly found in major supermarkets, while red and green or French lentils are also fairly common. Lentils cook fairly fast  in water or broth, which make them ideal for quick meals. Lentils are a good substitute or addition to meat dishes, and also incredibly versatile. We have a number of recipes here on our site like this one: 

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Lentil Vegetable Soup

We have many more recipes containing pulses if you browse through our recipe index. Also, if you want more lentil inspiration, our friends, the Meal Makeover Moms recently did a podcast and blog on lentils  featuring 20 lentil recipes, including our own Garden Lentil Bolognese

Add more pulses to your diet in 2016 for a healthier body and planet!

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Lesley Baradel

We (Lesley and Ann) first met years ago while training for Ironman Wisconsin. Our paths crossed again at Georgia State University while studying to become registered dietitian nutritionists. Over the years, our paths kept crossing and we soon discovered that we shared a love for menu planning. This blossomed into My Menu Pal where we help the food industry up their nutrition game to become their customer's nutrition hero.
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