Nutrition Talk: Pulses, a 2016 Celebration
Pulses are the edible seed of the legume family plants. Pulses include dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
There are many reasons to eat more pulses, I could go on and on about this, but I know many of you aren't quite as excited as me, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet.
Pulses contain both protein and slow-burning carbs, making them a good substitute for meat or starchy foods like rice and potatoes. For ideas and recipes to include more pulses in your diet see my post on tips using beans and chickpeas.
Here are a few pulse nutrition highlights:
Did you know that most Canadians don't eat enough fiber? Women should shoot for at least 25g per day, and men for 38g per day. Fiber has a long list of benefits including blood sugar and cholesterol control, digestion, regular bowel movements, and providing food for the healthy bacteria found in your gut (which then helps with many other things!). Fiber also makes you feel full after a meal, so your food tends to stick with you and you won't be running for the snack cupboard shortly after eating (you know the chinese food effect?? - the opposite).
While most Canadians get enough protein in our diets, some don't. Make a point of including a protein source at every meal, including breakfast and lunch - I find if people miss out on protein, this is where it happens! Pulses are a great vegetarian source of protein and they're much more wallet-friendly than their meaty counterparts. Plus, back to the fiber - most of our protein sources (meat, dairy, eggs) are very low in fiber. Including some vegetarian sources of protein is a surefire way to up your intake!
Many pulses are grown in Canada, so you're supporting Canadian industry! They also have a much lower carbon footprint than animal sources of protein - they require less water and resources to grow and produce less gas and emission. They're nitrogen fixing plants, so they can also contribute to soil health. According to the Water Footprint network pulses require 19L of water per gram of protein to grow, while beef requires 112L per gram of protein. Other animal products weigh in at about 30-60L water per g protein.
Other benefits include vitamin and mineral content (they're usually a good source of iron, something many women of childbearing age and vegetarians struggle to get enough of), low glycemic index, and they're naturally gluten-free! They're also much lighter on the wallet than most animal sources of protein.
Beans, Beans, the musical fruit?
Here are some tips to help reduce gassy side-effects:
- If you're not used to eating pulses, it may take your body some time to adjust to the fiber content. Start with a small amount and slowly increase, and make sure you drink lots of water!
- Make sure you drain canned pulses, and rinse them really well! A lot of the gassy fiber gets trapped in the liquid the beans are canned in.
- If you're cooking dry pulses, don't cook them in the soaking water. Get rid of it and fill the pot with fresh water when you're done soaking. Want to get rid of even more gassy stuff? Change the water once or twice while you're soaking them.
- If you're really having a hard time with the musical side-effects, there are pills you can take to help you digest the fiber in the beans called beano.
- Always cook pulses well - undercooked = more gas.
For more info on pulses including nutrition info, cooking tips, and great recipes check out these websites:
Chef Michael Smith - A Canadian celeb chef who's a big fan of pulses and has created many mouth-watering dishes! He's also a fan of local, sustainable food and he's super down-to-earth, I've had the privilege of meeting him at an event and tasting some of his lentil-inspired dishes