Have You Taken Your Nutritional Pulse?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The edible seeds of legumes like dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils are called pulses, a name derived from the Latin word puls which means thick soup or potage. Pulses are very popular in Mexican, Middle Eastern, or East Indian cuisine and provide a low fat protein source, dietary fiber, and essential nutrients. They are unique among grain crops because they put nitrogen back into the soil, which produces fewer greenhouse gases, and take less energy to grow, which provides an environmentally friendly crop.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1.7 billion pounds of dry peas and 590 million pounds of lentils were produced in our country last year with North Dakota and Montana serving as top producing states. Surprisingly, two-thirds or more of these crops were exported to drought-ridden areas of the world such as India, South Asia and Turkey.

Fortunately, tight budgets and an increased focus on healthier eating here at home have also provided a wonderful opportunity to influence interest in legumes and vegetables. A new association between the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the US Dry Bean Council called the American Pulse Association (APA) has been created with the hopes of significantly increasing national consumption of pulses over the next five years.

How much do you know about them?

While the more traditional uses of these products is in soups and stews, the APA hopes to study milling, extrusion, extraction and cooking properties of pulse to find alternative uses. The hope is that pulse flours can be used in baked goods, noodles and snacks instead of wheat flours for those that require gluten free diets. Likewise, they have interest in extracted protein opportunities for meat analogues and extenders and egg replacements for those following a vegan diet.

When purchasing dry pulses, select seeds that are bright in color, uniform in size with smooth skins and with a coat that is free of chips or shrivels. They can be stored for a long period as long as they are stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dark, dry location. It is best to use them within one year of purchase since they dry out over time, which causes an increase in cooking time. Dry lentils and split peas do not require soaking before cooking and only need rinsed before use. Dry beans, whole peas, and chickpeas must be soaked before cooking because their skins do not absorb water and the water must enter via the end, which was attached to the plant stem.

If time is on your side, you can let pulses soak overnight or for about 12 hours in the refrigerator. If you need a quicker soaking option, place pulses in water on the stovetop, bring to a boil and allow them to boil gently for two minutes before removing from the heat, covering, and letting stand for about one hour. If you need an even quicker soaking option, combine pulses and water in a microwave safe glass casserole dish, cover and microwave on high for 10-15 minutes and then let stand for one hour before use. Be sure to discard the water after soaking and to rinse the pulses well under cold water before cooking to reduce the gas-producing components responsible for flatulence and for improved digestibility.

Canned pulses provide convenient, pre-cooked, and ready to eat healthy options as well, just be sure to rinse and drain them before use. Canned pulses should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to one year. When cooking pulses it is important to remember that they will double or triple in size. You can add one teaspoon of oil to pulse cooking water to prevent foaming during cooking and seasonings such as garlic, onion and herbs enhance flavors. Since acids slow the cooking process, be sure to add acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegar after pulses are tender. Beans naturally contain a toxin called phytohemagglutinin, which is destroyed by cooking them adequately. Cooking time for dry pulses will vary but typically beans, whole peas, and chickpeas require 1-2 hours while lentils and split peas only require 30-45 minutes. If you are going to use them in a slow cooker recipe, be sure to boil them in fresh water for 10-12 minutes before adding to your crock-pot recipe. Cooked pulses can be frozen for up to six months so to save time, cook a large patch and then freeze in one to two cup portions.

How often do you eat pulses? What is your favorite recipe?

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I always put red kidney beans in my turkey/beef chili. I also like to stir fry 2-3 diff. beans in olive oil, onion, and red pepper with chili powder or the like for seasoning. Report
We are not much of bean eaters but tonight I making a pot of chili and it is loaded with black beans. YUM! Can't wait for dinner. :) Report
I like black beans and those little white cannelini beans. I keep a few cans around for instant dinners. Last night, we had brown rice with black beans. Just threw it all in the rice cooker and ignored it for an hour. Easy.

I love a good split pea soup, but no one else in my house will eat it. Bummer. Report
Favorite recipe: Roasted Chickpeas (from one of the South Beach Diet cookbooks, probably "Quick and Easy")

Preheat oven to 350. Rinse one can of chickpeas and drain well. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; arrange chickpeas in single layer. Bake 50 min or until toasted. Makes 4 1/2cup appetizer servings of about 77 cals each. For a little extra zing, I might toss them with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and/or lemon juice.

For cooking dried beans, I prefer the crockpot over cooking them on the stovetop. Soak overnight or several hours, and cook on High for about 4-5 hrs; or on Low for 7-8 hrs. (I've cooked them overnight on Low and they were ready when the alarm went off.)

I love beans/peas and we have them often in our house. Honestly we typically use the canned versions, but I rinse them and jazz them up. I make Jamaican style stewed peas and rice and peas with red kidney beans; curried chickpeas; and black beans. Report
I love beans- dried, canned or homegrown by my partner!
Canned beans are so easy to ad to many dishes and really up our fibre and protein intake! Yumm! Report
I love to mix black beans with brown rice... add a dash of hot sauce or even chili powder and yummy!! Report
I love beans, lentils, etc. but hadn't heard the term "pulses" before. I love black beans with eggs in the morning. I try to add beans to lots of our dinners--so high in fiber and some have quite a bit of iron. The only bean I won't eat is a lima bean. Report
I throw at least one of these things into almost every main dish recipe I make. (I think I must have some undiagnosed disorder that makes me unable to follow a recipe.) Sometimes it doesn't turn out very well...but I like to think I'm adding something nutritious and plant-based to my meals. Report
Educational article since I have never heard the legumes called pulses. Thanks.
I think I can say, "I never met a bean I didn't like". But I rarely use canned because of the sodium. I do cook a pound at a time and freeze in 1 cup quantities, then throw them into many dishes, especially the lentils.
I like to add a little garlic and onions when cooking and can't wait to eat them. Report
I wonder what "pulses" would be in swedish...? Du to poverty I have started to eat a lot more of beans and lentils - one of my favourite is to make hoummus out of chick peas, oil, garlic and some more things... Report
No i don't eat them because i don't know where to buy them.
and i have never heard of them or tried them.
i wonder if they would be good as a
freeze dried snack? Report
Lentils and black beans are my favorites!! Made lentils and pasta for dinner a couple of nights ago and took the leftovers for lunch the next day. Yummy and it brings back good family memories. Report
A restaurant, Carrabas, has a great lentil-sausage soup. A friend of mine gave me a recipe that imitates that dish. I made a few changes to further reduce fat and sodium. It's yummy! Report
I'm from PA, and I've never heard them called pulses before either. I found a SP recipe (I've changed it a bit from the original) about a year ago that I love- it's a chickpea & kidney or black bean salad made with horseradish sauce & a little tiny bit of mayo and shredded carrots and whatever other veggies you want to throw in there. I like it with chopped mushrooms, and then some romaine or red leaf lettuce on a whole wheat pita. Yum! Hmm- I've been meaning to make this for a week or so- Thanks for the reminder! Report
I enjoy eating all types of beans. Now that I'm paying attention to my meals I eat them several times a week. Report
Black Beans, and Lentils, and Navy Beans, oh my!
These are my very favorite pulse buys!! Report
We love beans in soups and salads. Now we are retired I find we are buying more canned beans than before and dd them to so many things. We love beans salmon and rice. I have also used dry great northern beans ground to flour in my coffee mill and baked with it. It makes a good alternative with bread. DH is susceptible to gout so we do not eat them as often as we would like to. I hope then US farmers will grow more of these pulses and wish the US populatrion would learn to appreciate what a wholsome food it is. Perhaps we could grow this instead of tobacco. Since these crops are soil improvers maybe they can be susidised instead and farmers can plant then as an option to leaving the land fallow. Report
I love beans! I, too, grew up eating them and still love them. My husband doesn't like them, so I usually prepare him an additional veggie with our dinner when I have my beans. Report
I'm from NJ originally and had never heard that term before, but I love beans, lentils, legumes or whatever. With the economy the way it is, it is nice to be able to have healthy meals and economical ones as well. Report
I love all kinds of beans, but my uses for them are limited. I will have to check out the Spark People recipes! Report
Once I discovered pulses, my grocery budget woes all but disappeared. I buy in bulk (just have to be a bit more careful sorting out stones, etc) and eat good protein/carbohydrates for pennies a day. Love black beans with eggs, or cottage cheese, or yogurt. Lentils in soups. I'll buy a bit of every bean I can find and make a patchwork soup--colorful and tasty. Sometimes I flavor with meat, sometimes I use the stock from the 'leftover' veggies--leek tops, carrot & beet greens, etc., and that adds its own strong taste. Love them pulses! Report
The term Puls is relatively new to me but not the actual beans, seeds themselves. My favorites are roasted red pepper hummus and seasoned black beans. Report
The more beans / fiber you eat, the less effect it will have on your body as it learns to digest them more efficiently. If you experience "gassiness," try eating a small amount of fiber rich products each day and increasing gradually. I can eat 40 grams of fiber a day with no trouble at all just from increasing my fiber intake a little each day! Everyone should get at least 25 grams of fiber a day, but if you're used to eating 10 and suddenly eat 25, yeah....somethin's gonna happen! But if you go up 5 grams per week - you won't even notice!
:-) Report
I wonder if pulses is a local term as I've never heard anyone call dried peas, legumes or beans by this term. Interesting. I grew up on these. I cannot eat beans now. I hate hummus and am not crazy on lentils. Report
I lived in Brazil for 18 months and there you eat BEANS and rice as a part of almost every meal. Some might think you would get tired of that, but I love them. Pinto and black beans are probably my favorites. Ü Report
I don't like cooking beans at my house, since men tend to have too much "gas" from them. Report
I cook pinto beans in a crockpot with red or green chili! Also cook black beans and lentil in the crockpot. Report
For whatever reason, I can't seem to cook dried beans properly (they either come out mealy, or give me indigestion). But canned beans are a lifesaver and appear approximately once a week.

Beans and Greens
Bean Burritos
Beanie Weenie (otherwise known as franks and beans)
Red beans and rice
Lentils in lots of ways.

And lots more Report
Curried Lentils. Yummy! Report
I love 7 bean soup, with a beef shank in the crock pot. I add lots of vegetable the last 3 hours. Yummy Report
I absolutely love hummus! Beans are amazing. =) Report
Actually had never heard this term before - always learning something new! Report
Love hummus.
I bought roasted red pepper & garlic lovers hummus.
I cut up fresh veggies & dip it in it too good.
I love beans and lentils but I probably don't eat them as often as I should these days. Growing up in an Arabic family, we ate them a lot! Report
I hadn't heard of pulses - other than the carotid and wrist varieties - 'til this morning. Thank you! Report
Absolutely my mainstay! I'm lucky to have loved eating this way for over 20+ years. I still gained weight but my diet is excellent, now better get moving! Report
I love beans and lentils! I probably have beans 2+ times per week, since I do a lot of batch cooking. The only problem is that I do get very gassy, so delicious as the beans are, they don't really help with bloating or gas, lol. But it's worth it ;-) Report
We have them more often in the winter than in the other times of year. I love them and credit them with helping me lower my chloresterol. Report
LOVE the pulses - eat them 2-3 times/week. Tacos, burritos, soups, pastas,.... Report
I'm still learning, so this was most appreciated. Report
I like pulses. I eat them a few times a week. Since I don't eat grains, it's one of my sources of carbs. But I limit them to 1/2 cup per meal. Report
Your Blog was very informative. I often wandered why pulses made me feel so bloated & loaded with gas. Now I know how to improve the digestibility of pulses. Oh, I love to eat pulses. My mother cooked some type of pulse every day. Report
I add lentils to my baked beans dish. I buy them canned or dried. Report
Who knew chickpeas were pulses? So far, I've never met a hummus that I didn't like (Sabra's lemon hummus is the best)!! Report
I soak dried beans overnight, even up to 24 hrs in cold water int he refrigerator. I change the water several times, rinsing thoroughly each time. This allows the gas to escape and can significantly reduce the toot factor. Report
My parents decided to b/c l/o vegetarian about 42 yrs ago. I grew up eating lentils and even soybeans - in those days we got them canned, didn't have the pretty crisp green ones. I love them, soak overnight then DRAIN and add new water b4 cooking - it'll save a lot of human gas! Report
I like beans when they are prepared properly (not mushy). A great addition to your diet. Report
Before joining SparkPeople my only experience with routine bean eating was hummus and mexican food. Since joining SparkPeople I have been eating beans at least 5 times a week. Love navy beans simmered in vegetable broth and then just cumin over the top when they are ready to eat. Also good with a couple of tablespoons of salsa over the top. There was a recipe the other day with kidney beans, balsamic vinegar and onions. I have been eating a 1/2 a cup of that over 2 cups of lettuce with dinner...yummy!!! Report
I eat a lot of beans and lentils. I enjoyed all the comments and would love new recipes for lentil and navy bean soup. I have to watch the fat content and I am trying to learn what spices to use to keep the flavour without fat. Report