In light of the United Nations declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, this years National Nutrition Week theme is … “Love your beans – eat dry beans, peas and lentils!”
These foods are known as pulses form part of the legume family which includes alfalfa, clover, lupin, green beans, peas, peanuts, soya beans, dry beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils. Dried beans, lentils and peas are among the most commonly known and consumed types of pulses.
While pulses have had a place in the human diet for many a centuries, the nutritional value that they offer is large;y overlooked. Most people can identify them as an economical source of protein but beyond that they are either included as a necessity or simply excluded as gassy foods that take a long time to cook.
Out if interest and the reason for putting the spotlight on pulses this year, pulses are a sustainable food source that can improve food security the world over. According to the UN:
- Pulses contribute to food security at all levels. They can be stored for long periods without losing their nutritional value and the proportion food waste at the consumption stage due to spoilage is very low.
- Pulses have a high nutritional value. They are a critical source of plant-based proteins, fibre, folic acid, slowly digested starch and other essential nutrients.
- Eating pulses regularly has important health benefits. Their consumption is recommended for preventing and managing non-communicable diseases and obesity.
- Pulses foster sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation. Their nitrogen-fixing qualities can improve soil fertility, produce a smaller carbon footprint, and they are a water-efficient source of protein.
Cooking dried pulse does require soaking them overnight in water before boiling them. Cooking large quantities and freezing them in meal sized portions can reduce this added preparation time. Alternatively, canned varieties offer convenience. Split red lentil and split peas are quicker cooking and can simply be added to mince, soups, stews and soups. They dissolve to thicken sauces. The fibre gained by the simple addition of pulses is well worth the effort to include them.
If you find that dried beans, lentils or chickpeas cause bloating, increase them more slowly into the diet. For instance, start with one meal a week. Most people should manage to eat at least 1/4 cup without digestive discomfort. This portion could be added to salads, stews, curries, rice. Even a small portion would be worthwhile.
10 ways to love beans, peas and lentils:
- Add lentils and mustard seeds to rice
- Add chickpeas to roasted vegetables
- Extend mince meat with lentils
- Add a mixture of beans to a vegetable soup
- Swap sandwich spreads for hummus
- Fill gems with lentils
- Add hummus to tomatoes for pasta sauces
- Mash baby potatoes with butter beans
- Add frozen lentils to a chocolate smoothie
- Roast chickpeas for a healthy snack
Recipes using pulses: