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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.

Onion Health Benefits

Onions are chock-full of healthy nutrients and plant chemicals, phytochemicals, that promote health and fight disease. One specific phytochemical group are polyphenols which contain a sub-group known as flavonoids. A specific flavonoid, quercetin, is among the most widely occurring polyphenols in nature.

Onion is known to have the highest quantity of quercetin. Quercetin has anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, and anti-viral properties. The molecule can cross the blood-brain barrier, (BBB) to protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

Onions and other members of the allium family (bulbous plant that includes onion and its relatives), such as leeks, shallots and scallions, may protect against the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and other conditions. Red and yellow onions have the highest flavonoid content.

Idea: Pickle them. Very thinly slice 1 red onion with a mandolin. Place them in a mason jar. Set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp sea salt and 1 – 2 TB honey or sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a simmer. Pour the mixture over the onions, screw on the lid and shake to coat the onions. Let marinate for 30 minutes, occasionally pushing the onions down into the liquid with the back of a spoon.