Even though I'm a longtime sugar lover, I pride myself on keeping up with the latest health info so a few weeks ago when I read that the American Institute for Cancer Research is recommending we eat more pulses, I did a double take.
Pulses!? Never heard of 'em unless we're talking about yours or mine. But the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, and everyone--and I mean everyone--Pop Sugar, Live Strong, Prevention, Consumer Reports and even Food & Wine started blabbing about them.
Who knew? Certainly, not me.
Not sure how I missed the pulse brouhaha (probably busy gobbling up cookies). If you're clueless too, relax. I did a little catch-up, and I'm ready to share my homework. Consider this my version of Pulses for Dummies. You're welcome.
What are pulses?
Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of legumes. They grow in pods and include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils. But that's just the beginning. There are hundreds of varieties of pulses, which are grown in a whopping 173 countries!
All pulses are legumes, but all legumes are not pulses. Confused? Me too. But don't let it bother you. Just know that if you're eating any of these common foods, you're covered:
Split Green or Yellow Peas
Black, Red, Pink, and Cranberry Beans
Great Northern Beans
In case you're wondering, the word pulse comes from the Latin word "pulse," which means thick soup. It makes sense because pulses are the bases for some of the heartiest, most delicious soups ever.
Pulses are good for you
Eat a diet rich in pulses, and you've won the nutrient lottery. Pulses not only are a great source of protein and fiber, they're low fat, are cholesterol and gluten-free and contain important vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and folate.
Pulses can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. They also can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Pulses could help you lose weight
For dieters, the advantage to eating pulses is that they fill you up, and they help you feel full longer. Plus, pulses are complex carbohydrates which provide provide energy for a longer time than simple sugars.
Pulses are good for the environment
Pulse crops have a lower carbon footprint than almost every other food group. They help decrease greenhouse gases, increase soil health, require less water than other crops and can be sustainably grown in a wide variety of climates.
Pulses taste great
Surprising, fun facts about pulses
*Pulses require only about 43 gallons of water per pound to produce, compared with 800 to 1,800 gallons to produce a pound of animal protein.
*Pulses are inexpensive. A serving of a pulse costs only about 10 cents, compared with nearly $1.50 for a serving of beef.
*One serving of red kidney beans have more antioxidants than blueberries.
*One serving of dried peas has much potassium as a banana.
*One serving of lentils have double the protein of quinoa.
*One serving of black beans have one and half times the iron of a three ounce flank steak.
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