Help your pulse with pulses
Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. The most common pulses are dried beans, chickpeas, lentils and dried peas. Both economical and sustainable, pulses are a great way to add filling protein and fiber to your diet.
Pulses’ unique fiber makeup has been linked to lowering bad LDL cholesterol, improved blood sugar control, weight control and improved regularity. In addition, regular pulse consumption has been linked to a lower blood pressure.
Adding pulses to your daily diet is a great way to keep your heart in check during National Heart Month and beyond. Speaking of pulse, February is a great time to check your blood pressure and pulse rate. Ask your local dietitian for details.
Dried beans and chickpeas require soaking before cooking, while lentils and dried peas do not. Pulses can be cooked on the stovetop, or you can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker to reduce the amount of hands-on time required. Red lentils cook in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, but most pulses take 45 to 60 minutes to cook.
Cooked pulses can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for several months. Canned pulses contain the same nutrition as dried pulses, and are a time-saving option to add them to your daily diet.
Look for no-salt-added canned varieties to keep your blood pressure in check.
Five ways to add pulses to your daily diet:
Start your day with pulses
Lentils can be cooked with your morning oats or eaten alone cooked with milk, nuts and a drizzle of honey and cinnamon.
Cooked beans can be seasoned, mashed and spread on your morning toast.
Add to soups and stews
Add one or more cups of cooked beans to your favorite soup to add color and filling fiber.
See below for a recipe for Chickpea, Chorizo and Spinach Soup, a great weeknight meal for a chilly winter night.
Stretch your meat budget with lentils
You can swap half the weight of ground meat for cooked lentils when making meatballs, tacos, spaghetti sauce and more.
Use in baked goods
Garbanzo bean flour has a mild taste with a variety of uses. It can be used alone to make flatbread, or used in combination with other flours to make muffins, breads and more.
Cooked beans and lentils can be pureed and used to add fiber to sweets including cookies and brownies.
Great for snacking
Many companies make roasted and seasoned pulses like chickpeas and peas. Their satisfying crunch makes them a great swap for potato chips, and their protein and fiber content will keep you feeling full.
Enjoy hummus, which is made with chickpeas, with raw veggies for another filling snack option.
The magical fruit
Pulses contain fiber that is fermented in the gut, which can cause bloating and gas. Fermentation is a good thing for gut bacteria, but may not be so great for your social life. To reduce gas, gradually add pulses to your diet, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Rinsing canned pulses, and not using the soaking liquid to cook pulses will reduce their gas-producing effects. Lentils contain the least gas-producing compounds, and chickpeas contain the most. Typically, after two weeks of eating pulses these side effects will be decreased.
Chickpea, Chorizo and Spinach Soup
-4 ounce Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
-1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
-3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced
-4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 cup canned, crushed tomatoes (tomato puree also works)
-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
-1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
-1/2 teaspoon paprika (regular sweet)
-1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
-4 cups baby spinach
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1.) Cook chorizo in a large pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat melts out (about five minutes).
Set aside to drain on paper towels, and discard fat.
2.) Add oil to the pot and place over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until just soft (about four minutes).
Add garlic and cumin, and cook for one minute. Add crushed tomatoes (or puree) and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes.
Add broth, chickpeas and sweet and smoked paprika; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for 20 minutes.
3.) Add spinach, pepper and the reserved chorizo, and cook.
Stir until the spinach is wilted (about two minutes).
Nutrition Facts per serving (1-3/4 cups): 320 calories, 14g fat, 4g saturated fat, 23mg cholesterol, 643mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 6g sugars, 15g protein.
Daily values: 86 percent vitamin A, 43 percent vitamin C, 12 percent calcium and 26 percent iron.