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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.

Top Nine Ways to Slash Your Cholesterol

Why should I care about my cholesterol level?
High cholesterol is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream can form plaque in artery walls. The cholesterol or plaque build-up causes arteries to become thicker, harder and less flexible, slowing down and sometimes blocking blood flow to the heart.

“When blood flow is restricted, angina (chest pain) can result. When blood flow is severely impaired and a clot stops blood flow completely, a heart attack results.”

So…take the following recommendations to heart ♥:

1.) Eat a variety of grain products, including whole grains.

2.) Make the mainstay of your diet fat-free dairy products, fish, legumes (beans), skinless poultry and lean meats are the mainstay of your diet.

3.) Choose fats and oils with liquid/tub margarine, canola and olive oils and no trans fats.

4.) Balance the number of calories you eat with the number you use each day. (To find that number, multiply the number of pounds you weigh now by 15 calories. This represents the average number of calories used in one day if you’re moderately active. If you’re sedentary, multiply your weight by 13 instead of 15. Less-active people burn fewer calories).

5.) Maintain a level of physical activity that keeps you fit and matches the number of calories you eat. Walk or do other activities for at least 30 minutes on most days.

6.) Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks, and candy that have lots of sugars.

7.) Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, such as whole milk, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and egg yolks.

8.) Try to limit salt. Even if you do not have a heart condition, overdoing on the salt is never a good idea.

9.) Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than 2 if you’re a man. Examples of one drink include: 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, 1 ½ oz of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz of 100-proof spirits.