Lately, the word “pulse” has become a popular buzzword in nutrition. The word “pulse” refers to the edible, dried seeds produced by legume plants such as dried beans, peas and lentils. Although related, they are different from fresh beans, peas and peanuts. They are receiving recent attention because the 68th United Nations General Assembly has named 2016 the “International Year of Pulses.”
Pulses are being brought to the spotlight because they are a nutrient dense food that provide us with fiber and protein; these nutrients help keep us feeling full after a meal. A high-fiber diet may also help with maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol levels and promoting good bowel health. They also contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorous, folate, and B-vitamins.
As pulses gain popularity, their appearances in stores continue to grow. You can find them in many different forms such as whole, split or ground into flour. They can also be found in certain crackers, noodles, cereals and even beverages. Food companies are continuing to discover creative ways to use pulses to increase the nutritional value of their products.
Another wonderful feature of pulses is their affordability. Pulses are packed with important nutrients that can help in creating a low cost, healthy meal. Dried beans and legumes can be purchased in bulk and stored at room temperature for extended periods of time.
If using pulses in their whole or split form, remember to sort though them. Throw away any rocks, sticks or debris that may have made their way into the packaging. Rinse and then follow the cooking instructions on the bag. Some may require soaking for an extended period of time before cooking.
Pulses are very versatile food, and can be used beyond their traditional dishes. Next time you bake, try substituting half of the flour with a pulse flour, such as chickpea flour. It can be used to make delicious chocolate chip cookies that contain more nutrients than the standard version.
Or, puree them once cooked and add to sauces and soups. For example, lentil puree can be added to a tomato sauce. This would result in a higher protein sauce with an extra depth of flavor. Or, add seasonings and oil to the puree to create a dip such as black bean hummus.
Pulses are an affordable, healthy addition to meals that also offer a chance for creativity. Want to stay up-to-date on food and nutrition? Follow the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Instagram for Richmond and Moore County Nutrition to stay up to date on local events, by following “MooreRichNutrition”.
The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 910-997-8255.