Are You Including Pulses in your Diet?
While pulses are a vital part of a vegetarian diet, they can be just as important in a regular everyday diet. This is because they are rich in nutrients, nourishing and have numerous health benefits.
What are pulses?
They are the edible seeds of legumes, including foods such as beans, lentils or chickpeas.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, soybeans and peanuts do not classify as pulses because of their oil production capacity.
Nutritionists do not include green peas and green beans as being part of this family.
Heath benefits of pulses
There are so many health and other benefits when pulses are grown and consumed:
Protein - pulses are a great source of protein and a huge help in feeding the world. The highest protein levels out of all vegetables are found in pulses. And they are cheaper to buy than meat and nourishing enough to take their place as the main dish on a menu. In addition, pulses offer large protein value without affecting your weight.
Saponins - pulses come with significant saponin content. Recent research has found that such content can be beneficial for the health with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-virus and possibly even anti-carcinogenic effects. Chickpeas and lentils are two of the pulses rich in saponins.
Vitamins and minerals - different pulses are rich in different vitamins and minerals as follows:
- Red beans which are rich in iron, copper and manganese, have cell-protection, anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant properties.
- Navy beans which are rich in iron, calcium, zinc, vitamins C and K and are low in saturated fats and sodium.
- Black eyed peas which have high levels of potassium and iron.
- Black beans which are rich in thiamin, folates, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
- Chickpeas which contain folates, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc.
- Lentils which are rich in folates, thiamin, phosphorus, copper, calcium and selenium.
Phytochemicals - these are compounds found in plants, mostly being responsible for color. The more vivid a plant’s color is, the higher its antioxidant levels and those who eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables tend of have higher levels of phytochemicals. These compounds have proven effects in decreasing the risk of certain diseases as well as a lowered cardiovascular disease risk.
Low glycemic index food - this is because pulses are low in fats and simple carbohydrates. The glycemic index shows how the level of sugar in blood raises, following carbohydrate consumption. High glycemic index foods are directly linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
Gut flora friendly - pulses, especially beans, contain certain substances which cannot be broken down by the gastric juice. They are known as prebiotics. Our intestines lack the enzymes needed to break down these constituents which is why beans produce gasses but in most cases, flatulence is completely normal and beneficial for the gut flora because it is a clear sign that the good bacteria can enjoy a thriving environment.
Delaying the aging process - pulses can be beneficial for this too as many of them are rich in folates which are chemical substances responsible for red blood cell production as well as their antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.
And there is more...
Diversity - pulses are grown all over the world and can be eaten in so many different ways.
Healthy living - packed with nutrition, pulses are so good for our health. Add just half a cup to your daily diet.
Sustainability - not only good to eat but when used in crop rotation, pulses improve soil health by fixing the nitrogen levels in the soil.
Environment - pulses are good to the environment because they require less water to grow than other crops.
Security - as dried seeds, pulses are easy to store, reducing food waste and loss while enhancing food security.
Hopefully, you have now discovered the value of including pulses in your diet too!