Pulses 101

October has got me in the mood to switch things up! Instead of our regularly scheduled 101 programming of fresh fruits and veggies, let’s change the channel to a much ‘drier’ but equally nutritious station – pulses.

What’s a pulse, what’s a legume, what’s the difference? There is a difference, slight one, but a difference nonetheless! Legumes include any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod; pulses on the other hand, are the dried up edible portion of these plants. The most common pulses:  dried beans, dried peas, lentils, and chickpeas – 4 categories with over 25 types, all different shapes, sizes and colors. Purchase them whole, spilt, ground into flours. How’s that for variety?  You’ll never get bored!

The pulse market in Canada is a multibillion dollar industry. We are one of the world’s top pulse producers;   beating out the competition as top exporters of peas and lentils, and top 5 for beans.  Pretty cool!

Fun fact:  In 2010, the CDN pulse production reached over 5.7 million tones. (Usual numbers hover around 4 million mark.) That’s a lot of dried seed!

Health Benefits:

Fibre

Sorry to break it to you guys, but most Canadians are only getting half the recommended amount of fibre.
Including 25 – 38 grams daily can help:  (to name a few…)

  • keep a healthy digestive system
  • make you feel fuller longer
  • lower blood cholesterol levels
  • control blood glucose levels
  • increase the good bacteria in the colon =  healthy colon
  • reduce risk of getting intestinal ulcers
  • prevent development of some types of cancers

I don’t know about you, but this list makes me want to eat fibre rich foods!  Pulses (especially dried beans) are a fantastic way to include fibre in your diet, ranging from 1-6 gram (approximately) per ½ cup serving.

 

Protein

One of the only types of plant derived food that is high in both complex carbohydrate content AND protein! Although high in protein, they still do not contain all essential amino acids required by our bodies. Combining pulses with other plant based food such as: barley, rice, wheat, and oats, will ensure all essential amino acids are accounted for.

 

Vitamins and minerals

Pulses also contain a generous amount to the following vitamins & minerals:

  • Iron:  Carries oxygen all over our bodies
  • Potassium: helps control blood pressure
  • Magnesium: helps with teeth and bone formation
  • Zinc: helps maintain a healthy immune system.
  • B Vitamins- Folate, Thiamin, and Niacin:  helps our bodies make energy via carbohydrate and protein.

 

How to Pick & Store:

Pick: Look for pulses that are bright in color, smooth skin, no chips or cracks, and uniform in size.

Store: If stored in an airtight container in a cool dry space, pulses can last up to 1 year. (Keep in mind lentils get dryer the longer they’re stored, this means more cooking time for you.)

 

Preparation Method:

Different pulses = different prep method:

  • Chickpeas, beans, whole peas: soak before cooking
  • Split peas & lentils: rinse before cooking

Soaking methods:

  • Quick- Bring water and pulses to a boil. Turn down heat for a gentle boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
  • Pretty quick – Get a microwave safe dish. Add water and pulses, cover, and microwave for 10-15 minutes. Let stand for 1 hour.
  • Not so quick – Combine water and pulses overnight (or 12 hours) on the counter or in the fridge.

Each soaking method requires a 3:1 water to pulse ratio. Once soaking is complete drain and rinse pulses.

*And for those lazy days, canned pulses will do the trick.  They’re cooked and ready to eat – just drain and rinse prior to eating.  Super easy!

For recipe inspiration, visit our vegetarian pinterest board or sign up for our newsletter. (This month Noorish Conscious Eatery supplied us with a recipe for White Bean and Pumpkin Soup!)