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Checking Your Pulse – Healthier Food for a Healthier World

At Peoples, we enjoy thinking of new ways to get cooking with natural gas, but we recognize that what you eat is just as important as how you make it. So we got some advice from Alicia Koloski, a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist, and learned a bit about a fascinating food group—pulses.

  • Beans from the pulses food group

When you hear the word “pulse,” you probably think of a nice, steady heartbeat. But did you know “pulses” is also the name of a food group? In fact, 2016 was dubbed “The Year of the Pulses,” but they have been an important human food source for the past 11,000 years. They are also widely considered to be a sustainable, nutritious, and delicious way to feed the growing human population in the future. Pulses, a subgroup of the legume family, are the dried edible seeds of plants grown in pods. There are 11 types of pulses, the most familiar being dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils. There are hundreds different varieties of pulses grown in over 173 countries. Their genetic diversity allows them to be grown in a vast amount of climates, but a large amount of pulses are grown right here in North America.

Pulses are a superfood when it comes to our health. They provide high amounts of plant based protein and fiber along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron and zinc. They are naturally low in fat and sodium and cholesterol and gluten free. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans makes the recommendation of consuming 1-2 cups of pulses per week. Pulses are part of the vegetable sub-group (yes, they count as a vegetable!) and protein group (1/4 cup equals 1 ounce of protein). They are an affordable protein source for populations throughout the world and they offer an array of phytochemicals and antioxidants. Diets high in pulses are linked to lower risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Their high fiber content, specifically oligosaccharides and resistant starch, feed the good bacteria, which is a key component of maintaining a healthy gut. 

Not only are pulses good for our health, but they are an extremely sustainable food crop and do wonders for the environment. Pulses have nitrogen fixing properties, meaning they use soil bacteria to take nitrogen from the air to use for their growth! As most of the carbon emissions in growing food crops, such as corn and soybeans, come from the use of nitrogen fertilizers, pulses naturally have a considerably lower carbon footprint. Pulses also use much less water than other protein sources. It takes an estimated 43 gallons of water to grown 1 pound of pulses compared to 216 gallons for 1 pound of soybeans, 469 gallons for 1 pound of chicken and 1,857 gallons for 1 pound of beef. 

Most lentils and split peas can be cooked in 15-35 minutes and dried beans (no soaking needed) can be easily cooked in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours on high. The culinary aspects are endless as pulses are found in all cuisines across the globe. Try a new ethnic recipe, add lentils to your meatloaf, use bean dips and hummus in place of mayonnaise, or take the Pulse Pledge to just try and eat more of them. Your health and the environment will thank you.

Alicia Koloski is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist with Parkhurst Dining, of the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group. She works with Peoples to provide healthy eating and nutrition advice to our employees. To learn more about the services offered by Parkhurst Dining, you can visit their website.

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