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Discover the Pluses of Pulses

By , Elizabeth Lowry, Staff Writer
What's dried, round and sustainable all over? Give up? Pulses! No, not the kind of pulse that you take after working up a sweat—these pulses are edible. Though you may not have heard of the term pulse specifically, this healthy food is nothing new. In fact, the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses to raise public awareness of both their nutritional benefits and the part they play in sustainable food production around the world.
 
What Are Pulses?
 
Though the moniker might have thrown you for a loop, "pulses" are made up of a common food grouping of 12 plants that includes dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. While technically all pulses are legumes, the key differentiator is that pulses are legume seeds that are specifically harvested to be dried. Fresh legumes (such as soybeans, green beans and peas) are not pulses.
 
The Benefits of Pulses: for You
 
Recommended as part of a well-rounded diet, pulses are nutrition powerhouses, boasting high fiber content, protein, iron, potassium, antioxidants and folate. They are also sodium-, gluten- and cholesterol-free.
 
A good source of plant-based protein, pulses contain two to three times the amount of protein found in cereal grains such as oats, barley, corn and wheat. When a plant protein from pulses is eaten in combination with another plant protein, (such as those found in grains), they combine to deliver essential amino acids necessary for good health.
 
One cup of cooked pulses contains an entire day's worth of fiber. The soluble fiber they contain helps manage body weight and blood sugar levels and can even help lower cholesterol. Plus, regularly eating pulses can also reduce your risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer and diabetes.
 
The Benefits of Pulses: for the World
 
Although pulses are most popular in developing countries, they are increasingly becoming recognized as an important part of a healthy diet the world over. Some of the world's biggest pulses producers include India, Canada, Myanmar, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia and the United States.  
 
In most parts of the world, pulses are cheaper than animal proteins. As a result, they are seen as a better, easier-to-access nutritional solution to problems such as obesity, intestinal health, malnutrition and diabetes.
 
In addition to their nutritional benefits, pulses also promote sustainable agriculture. They help to decrease greenhouse gases, use less water to grow and, as nitrogen-fixing crops, serve to increase soil fertility. Compounds left behind by pulses feed the soil's microbes and benefit overall soil health. Growing crops in rotation with pulses enables the earth to support organism diversity that help maintain and increase soil fertility. When microbial life flourishes, this helps the soil fend itself from disease, weeds and insects, giving way to a more successful harvest.
 
The United Nations hopes that their recognition of pulses creates an opportunity to connect the world's food chain to better utilize pulse-based proteins, crop rotations, trade challenges and to further the global production of pulses.
 
Incorporating Pulses into Your Diet
 
Ready in just 15 to 30 minutes—roughly the same amount of time it takes to prepare pasta and rice—pulses are delicious and can be found in a plethora of recipes or can be added to salads, baked potatoes or other side dishes. Pulses also make a great addition to meatless Mondays and can make your meat dishes go further. Consider adding lentils to taco meat, beans to chili or chickpeas to a chicken casserole for a healthy protein booster.  
 
Pulses in their dried state should be kept in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. They can be kept indefinitely, even if you notice their color fades—this doesn't change their flavor. Once cooked, they should spend no more than two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers and use within three days.
 
Have you tried pulses? Share your favorite recipe in the comments. 

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Comments

MUSICNUT 8/22/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
JUNETTA2002 6/30/2019
Going to try to find these. Report
DEE107 4/28/2019
thanks Report
GMACAMI 3/5/2019
interesting Report
CAROLJ35 1/26/2019
As kids, we loved Split Pea Soup my mother made. Now I make lentil soup and like the idea of adding lentils to ground beef when cooking. Will do. Report
BILLTHOMSON 1/13/2019
Great information that I'm going to follow up on Report
MUSICNUT 1/1/2019
Thanks for the great information! :) Report
CHERYLHURT 12/18/2018
I cook mine in the slow cooker overnight. Report
KHALIA2 12/17/2018
Never heard of this one. Report
ALUKOWSKY 12/7/2018
@ GRANDMA4U: Lol, you made me laugh! I have to agree with you. When did we stop simply calling them BEANS and PEAS (or maybe "legumes?") Report
Thanks for the info. Report
Great info Report
RAPUNZEL53
Great. Report
ROSSYFLOSSY
Great information! Report
I often weigh out 6oz of beans at night to rinse and soak first thing the next morning. I find it takes more than 15 to 20 mins to cook most beans. I only add salt when ready to cook them to use at dinner. Report
Dearly Beloved and I cook with beans, lentils, etc. all the time. Report
Thank you Report
Good to know. Report
ROCKS8ROX
Good info! Report
If you buy pulses in bulk, check for pebbles. Report
GKNIGHT69
I didn't even know what pulses were. Thanks! Report
Love me some pulses! Report
Interesting. Report
ALILDUCKLING
My husband won me over to beans for the most part -- plus some vegetarian recipe books. My secret for cooking dry beans is to use my crockpot. That way my kitchen gets less hot, steamy and I just let the beans cook till they soften -- works very well! Report
CHENABEEBEE
I love beans of every kind. My only complaint is they are a little high in calories - usually about 120 calories for a 1/2 cup. So I have to control how much of them I eat. Report
The only time I ever heard the term "pulse" in regard to food was in Bible passage. It's nice to know it actually means. I've never been much of a bean eater. I would eat black-eyed peas and butter beans (I can never remember if that's just another name for lima beans or some other bean), but that was it until recently. I have come to sorta like black beans...but I usually mash them and put them in my chili...like out of sight, out of mind. Report
SPEEDBUMPSAHEAD
The only way the larger beans can be ready in 15-30 minutes is if you have some already cooked and frozen or use canned beans. Report
Lentils are super easy to cook-- we make 'sloppy lenny's' here (like sloppy joes, only with lentils. Red lentils cook so face and make *Great* soups!

Cooking dried beans in a crock pot can help get them soft, and minimal watching the pot!

I was not aware of calling the legumes grown to be dried as 'pulses'. Interesting article. Report
I never heard of this name "pulses" - but a few months ago I decided to stop eating meat, and looked for alternative protein sources.
Now I love beans, split peas, chick peas and lentils!
I eat them every day, with some brown rice, corn or bulgur, or simply with rye bread toast.
I feel great and my labs drawn before donating blood proved I am just as healthy as before. Report
Cynthia Sass has just published a book called Slim Down Now, which is a 30 Day Pulse Challenge. It appears to be based on sound nutrition and backed by scientific studies, and includes great recipes for pulses. I've just completed the first four days (called the Rapid Pulse) in which I lost 10 pounds without hunger and without feeling deprived. I'm now moving on to the rest of the 30 day Pulse Challenge, and I feel pretty confident that I will be able to stick with it. Report
GRANDMA4U
Pulse that is stupid name for beans . Report
CHRIS3874
I suppose the only experience I have was with a 21 bean soup mix that I used as a basis for a ham soup. Was OK I guess (other people liked it better than I did). I also added split peas and tomatoes and pasta. I still think its a STUPID name. Report
JANETFAYE
Chickpeas and lentils are my favorites. I love that they are so versatile. Report
I only wish dried chick peas could be ready in 15 to 30 minutes! Reality check needed here. Lentils can, yes, but chick peas take hours of soaking and cooking. Report
I've been eating red beans, white beans, and lentils since I was a child. They are so good, and really hit the spot on a cold day. Report
My hubby is not a bean eater. I love them especially black beans and red kidney beans. He doesn't want beans in chili so last night I put kidney beans in the blender and stirred them in the chili. He never knew! Report
I just acquired an electric pressure cooker, and it's changing my life! My favorite thing so far: that I made AMAZING black beans, in the Cuban style, from dried! WOOOOOOO, one of my life long goals!! LOVE BEANS! Report
Plasticizer, how old are the beans you are using? The older the bean, the tougher it becomes. I've bought dried beans in sealed packets from shops, which although in date, nevertheless take an eternity to cook. Now I only buy them loose, as they are always fresher.

Do you have a pressure cooker? If so, that will help. I don't because I travel a lot, so can't carry things like pots and pans around with me but I recently bought a silicon lid which slips goes on top of the pan, under the regular pan lid, and turns the pan into a low-pressure cooker. It works really well, especially when cooking pulses. Mine is made by a UK company called Lakeland, and only cost 13 GPB (c. 18 USD). Well-worth every penny! Report
FREDANNA
Of course I use lentils in a variety of soups, but for some reason I don't make lentil salads. Maybe that should be my next inquiry in the recipe section. Report
PLASTICIZER
No matter how much I soak, boil, or simmer, I can never get my dried beans soft like canned beans. I REALLY wish I could. Report
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