I love pulses! Pulses (subgroup of the legume family) refer to the edible dried seeds and include dry bean, pea, lentil, chickpea, faba beans, etc. Legumes used for oil extraction (soybean), harvested green (green pea) or used solely for sowing purposes (clover) are not considered as pulses.
Nutritional value of pulses
Pulses contain about 55-65% of carbohydrates (including dietary fibre), 15%-35% of proteins and are low in fat. They are nutrient dense: they contain relevant amounts of the B-vitamins and minerals important for human health (iron, calcium) as well as beta-carotene and health-promoting fatty acids. However, pulses also contains antinutrients which can make them unpalatable, interfere with digestion and reduce the absorption of minerals. Luckily, we can easily reduce the antinutrients content in pulses by soaking, cooking, boiling and sprouting.
Many of the nutritional advantages of pulses are related to their high content in dietary fibre: satiating effect (weight control), reduction of cholesterol, reductions of glucose and insulin response, etc. As a result, pulses optimise health and help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Pulses and plant-based diet
In comparison to other plant foods, pulses contain high proportion of protein. They should therefore be the main source of protein in any plant-based diet (forget about all the “vegan processed food”, go for real food!). Omnivores should also try to cut down on meat and increase their consumption of pulses as a healthier option.
Pulses and environment
It is also important to highlight the beneficial effects of pulses on climate change, biodiversity, soil protection, and reduction of water consumption when compared to other protein sources (meat and dairy).
Finally, pulses positively contribute to food security as they are an affordable source of proteins that can be store for months without losing their high nutritional values.
All these benefits are well recognized by health organizations and the UN even declared 2016 the International Year of Pulse. So… eat your pulses!
- Curran J. The nutritional value and health benefits of pulses in relation to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;108(S1):S1–2.
- Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2014;39(11):1197–204.
- Rebello CJ, Greenway FL, Finley JW. Whole Grains and Pulses: A Comparison of the Nutritional and Health Benefits. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2014;62(29):7029–49.