2016 has been officially dubbed the International Year of the Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO.) And for good reason. Seriously, pulses are amazing.
But what the heck are they? Simply put: beans, peas, and lentils that are grown for their dry seed. So fresh beans and fresh peas, as well as legumes grown for their oil don't count, but canned beans, peas, and lentils do. Why do we love them? For one, they are some of the healthiest foods in the world.
They are packing so much nutritional goodness:
- Slowly digesting carbs
Plus they are inexpensive, sustainable, versatile, and just down right tasty. In case you couldn't tell, I'm a fan.
I adore beans! They are hands down my favorite food. You will never catch me without a can (the BPA free, low sodium, organic variety from Whole Food's 365 brand are my go to) or bag of beans or lentils in my cupboard.
If you're currently prepping for pregnancy, I strongly encourage you to load up on pulses.
The non-heme iron (fancy for iron from plants or supplements instead of animal based foods) in beans, peas, and lentils is linked to a decreased risk of ovulatory infertility.
They are a great source of folate, an incredibly important B vitamin for women of childbearing age. Folate reduces the risk of neural tube defects and is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Reason # 3
All of that fiber, protein, and resistant starch means they are a slow digesting source of carbs. We need carbs for energy, as you well know; we just want avoid a dramatic spike in our blood sugar. A slow steady rise, followed by a gentle decline and plateau is the goal when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels nice and steady, and our hormones happy. Which is important for all of us, especially if you have PCOS, diabetes, or prediabetes.
Ways to Fit More Pulses into Your Diet
- Layer hummus and avocado on whole grain toast for a quick, satisfying, and ridiculously healthy breakfast or light lunch. Feel free to add tomatoes, cheese, chili flakes, or anything else your heart desires.
- Add kidney beans to your salad for a fun sensory experience: creamy texture, subtle but distinct flavor, and a little color contrast next to the rainbow of hues from all of those lovely vegetables.
- Replace that bag of chips, pretzels, or cheese flavored crackers with baked crunchy garbanzos. Just preheat your oven to 400 degree F. Rinse and drain a can of garbanzos (or any other bean for that matter.) Toss with a tablespoon or 2 of olive, avocado, canola, or grapeseed oil. Place beans on a baking dish, pop them in the oven, and bake for 30-45 minutes (until crisp.) Toss with any combo of seasonings.
- Try a bean or lentil burger at your favorite diner or restaurant the next time you are out.
- This one might sound strange, but trust me, it works and tastes great. Add 1/3-1/2 cup of any variety of white beans to your smoothie of choice.
- Making some quinoa? Throw in a cup of lentils and 2 additional cups of water. Lentils and quinoa have nearly the same cooking time, so they can be cooked together.
- Enjoy a nice bowl of lentil soup or split pea soup. They are ridiculously tasty, comforting and cozy, and take very little time to make. They make the perfect companion for sautéed greens, and warm flat bread.