Why are pulses so good for you?

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With 2016 being named International year of the pulse (1). I thought I would make my first post about this wonderful food group…

What is a pulse?

A pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod,this includes beans, lentils and peas. Some examples:

  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Garden peas
  • Cannellini beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Butter beans
  • Broad beans
  • Baked Beans

Why they’re so good?

Weight loss

With a protein content ranging between 17-30%, pulses make a brilliantly low fat alternative to meat in the diet (2). Pulses are also high in fibre which is consistently linked with satiety and keeping us full for longer, therefore the combination of low energy densiry, high fibre and moderate protein is thought to be a winning combination for weight control (4).

Fatigue prevention

Pulses have a low glycaemic Index (GI) meaning that when eaten; beans, peas and lentils release energy to the body at a slow and steady rate. This prevents the energy surge and slump associated with simple carbohydrates such as white bread and sugary treats, thus keeping you fuller for longer and less tempted to reach for a high fat or sugar snack. Due to the low GI of this food group, it makes them a brilliant carbohydrate source for those with type 2 Diabetes, as they don’t cause sharp rises to blood glucose levels. Some studies have also found that pulses could reduce risk of developing type 2 Diabetes (3).

5 a day

Three tablespoons or 80g of pulses counts as one of your 5 a day. Having said that; no matter how much you eat, they can only ever count as one portion. This is because despite their health credentials, they don’t provide as big a variety of nutrients and minerals that fruit and vegetables do.

Vegetarian alternative

For some vegetarians it can be difficult to ensure that they are getting enough of the nutrients that are associated with eating meat. However, pulses are a great meat-free source of iron and B vitamins, which are vital for sustaining energy, kidney function and healthy hair and nails.

Cheap

In addition to all of the above nutritional benefits, pulses are cheap to buy and a lot cheaper than meat. This makes them great as meat-free alternatives in dishes such as chilli or spaghetti Bolognese, but if you’re not ready to go full veggie then they also work perfectly along side meat as a side dish or an additional ingredient to make meals go further.

For a delicious meat-free and pulse packed dish, try out my recipe for tarka dahl.

References

(1) International Year of the Pulse http://iyp2016.org/

(2) J, Curran. (2012) The nutritional value and health benefits of pulses in relation to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. British Journal of Nutrition. 108, S1, S1-S2.

(3) N, Kalogeropoulos, et al. (2010) Nutritional evaluation and bioactive microconstituents (phytosterols, tocopherols, polyphenols, triterpenic acids) in cooked dry legumes usually consumed in Mediterranean countries. Food Chemistry 121, 682690.

(4) I Albete , et al. (2010) Obesity and the metabolic syndrome: role of different dietary macronutrient distribution patterns and specific nutritional components on weight loss and maintenance. Nutrition Reviews 68, 214231.

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