PULSES: LENTILS, PEAS, BEANS AND LEGUMES
By: Sanaz Baradaran, RD
Pulses are one of the most popular food trends recently and I happen to be a big fan. Of course as a child I never liked pulses. Even as an adult I always tried to avoid them! Being a dietitian and learning about all the benefits of pulses, I’ve found ways to include them in my diet without hating them … in fact, I enjoy eating pulses! I have highlighted some of the well-researched benefits of pulses.
- Pulses have desirable impact on blood pressure and blood cholesterol
- a number of studies show that cooked beans lower circulating LDL cholesterol (this is the “undesirable” cholesterol)
- including a good amount of pulses in your daily diet may help in lowering blood pressure
- high LDL levels and high blood pressure are both risk factors for heart diseases – this means that pulses could serve to protect you against heart disease
- Pulses help control blood sugar levels, which is specially important for people with diabetes
- pulses have a “low glycemic index” – this means that the carbohydrate content of pulses is slowly broken down and released into the blood, causing a very gradual increase in blood sugar levels
- low glycemic index food items are great choices for those concerned with controlling their blood sugar levels (such as those who have diabetes)
- Pulses promote satiety
- pulses help you feel full, which makes them a great choice, specially for those who are trying to lose weight
- Pulses have a positive impact on intestinal health
- the high fibre content of pulses promotes gastrointestinal health
- some studies have shown that pulses protect individuals from ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowl disease)
- pulses also contribute to healthy gut microbiomes (i.e. bacteria in the gut) – there is a lot of research being done in this area which supports the importance of a healthy gut microbiota
These are some of the many benefits of pulses. Beans, peas and lentils belong to the “Meat and Alternatives” group of Canada’s Food Guide where 3/4 cup cooked pulses is equivalent to one serving. Here are some strategies to help you add more pulses to your diet:
- Add cooked black beans or kidney beans to an omelette, stew or to your pasta sauce.
- Toss cooked lentils, chickpeas or beans into your salad.
- Spread sandwiches with hummus.
- Make more chilli and lentil soup!