According to the United Nations, 2016 is "the year of the pulse"— and they're not talking about the one in your wrist. Even if you're thinking "year of the what?" chances are you've eaten pulses recently. Pulses are the dried, edible seeds of legumes—like the chickpeas you put on a salad or the beans in your chili.
So why eat pulses? These seeds are super high in fiber, protein, iron, and folate (also called folic acid), all of which are essential to a healthy diet. With up to 9g of protein in half a cup, pulses are the perfect protein source for a vegetarian or vegan diet. Pulses are low in fat, have no cholesterol, and their high fiber content may help reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol and improve heart health. Which explains why plant-based diets (naturally high in fiber) may reduce the risk of heart disease.
It's sometimes difficult to hit the recommended 25g of fiber each day. But pulses are the ideal fix. Half a cup of chickpeas contains 6g of fiber—25 percent of the daily recommended amount. The fiber in pulses also encourages favorable gut bacteria and boosts immune function. Not bad for a handful of dried seeds!
Pulses also help with a number of conditions:
- Celiac disease: Pulses are gluten-free and the starch they contain can be made into flour and used for pastries, pastas, and chips.
- Diabetes: The high fiber content and low glycemic index may help control blood sugar.
- Constipation: The fiber acts as a natural laxative. (Be sure to drink plenty of water too!)
- Obesity: The protein and fiber will increase satiety and help keep you full longer, which will likely reduce snacking and overall caloric intake.
- Pregnancy: Increased folate and iron consumption before and after conception (and the amount of prenatal vitamins) can help prevent birth defects and anemia.
Aside from the physical health benefits, pulses are beneficial for crop rotation and environmental health as legumes help fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. So now you know that chickpea snack is good for you AND for the environment.
Check out these recipes for quinoa and chickpea salad, lentil chili, and black bean soup to liven up your meals. If you don't feel like making a new recipe, try adding a handful of chickpeas to your salad or substituting black beans for meat in your tacos to take advantage of all the nutrients pulses have to offer.