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Why add pulses to your diet

Published on February 17, 2017, by in Dietitian.

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.

1. 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
2. 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)
3. Pulses promote satiety
  • pulses help you feel full, which makes them a great choice, specially for those who are trying to lose weight
4. 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!
You can see a Registered Dietitian to help you with easy and practical strategies to make your meals healthier!
References:
  • Mudryj, A. N., Yu, N., & Aukema, H. M. (2014). Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 39(11), 1197-1204.
  • Rizkalla, S. W., Bellisle, F., & Slama, G. (2002). Health benefits of low glycaemic index foods, such as pulses, in diabetic patients and healthy individuals. British Journal of Nutrition, 88(S3), 255-262.
  • Schwartz, R. (2013, April 19). The perks of pulses | Diabetes Canada. Retrieved from https://www.diabetes.ca/publication…
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