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Pulses: Health Benefits

What are pulses (in food terms?) Pulses are the official name for a broad category of plant foods in the form of dry, edible seeds that grow in pods. All pulses are legumes but not all legumes are pulses (think peanuts and soybeans). The main categories of pulses are dried beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils.

What are the advantages to eating pulses? They are protein and fiber-rich, also an excellent source of complex carbohydrate and many other nutrients. If you are starting with the dried (not canned) form, soak overnight. This softens the seed and decreases cooking time, which makes them easier to digest (less gas). Pulses are vitamin-and-mineral-rich, high in magnesium, zinc, iron and folate, to name a few. Here are a few key health benefits:

  1. Anti-cancer/anti-carcinogenic: The phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, found in legumes include saponins and tannins. The protect cells from free radical damage while fighting cancer though various mechanisms, including cancer cell death and inhibition of cancer cell development.
  2. Lower cholesterol levels: pulses are high in dietary fiber, both insoluble and soluble. Fibers are non-digestible plant components essential for promoting healthy digestion. Soluble fiber is a viscous, gel-like substance that binds with bile acids, and is particularly helpful for reducing cholesterol levels.
  3. Lower insulin and blood sugars: Because fiber cannot be broken down to sugar molecules, it passes through the body undigested and helps regulate the body’s use of sugar. Pulses are low glycemic index, meaning they have less of an impact on insulin and blood sugar levels than many other carbohydrates.

Pear, mint and fig salad

Fruits and veggies go well together. This summer experiment with fresh herbs and citrus fruits, which also go great with different types of salad greens.

Pear, mint and fig salad

(serves 4)

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 small head Boston lettuce, washed and torn
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
  • 1 ripe pear of your choice, seeded, cored and quartered
  • 8 dried figs, cut into 4 slices each
  • ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice and honey. Stir in shallot and set aside. To prepare salad, arrange lettuce on a serving platter. Sprinkle mint over lettuce. Cut each pear quarter into 4 slices and arrange over mint. Sprinkle dried figs on top. Stir dressing and pour over salad. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

High in fiber, less than 200 calories per serving, rich in healthy fats.

Healthy Chocolate Pudding Recipe

Healthy Chocolate Pudding Recipe

Made with Greek yogurt

Make delicious chocolate pudding with 4 simple ingredients (serves 4): 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (or Dutch process) not regular, 2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, 3 TB pure maple syrup, 1 tsp pure vanilla.

Use a whisk to stir the cocoa powder and remove lumps. Then mix everything together in another bowl. The mixture will be very thick at first and ‘powdery.’ As you stir and incorporate the cocoa powder into the yogurt it will become smooth. Adjust ingredients to your taste (amount of liquid if very thick, cocoa powder for chocolate flavor, maple syrup for sweetness).

Nutrition Facts (per serving without revisions to above): 185 calories, 6 g fat, 21 g carbohydrate, 12 G protein