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2016: The international year of the pulse

Written by Corinne Tighe, Dietitian. Article from April 2016.

As a Dietitian, I enjoy that 2016 is the International Year of Pulses. What a perfect opportunity to create more awareness and celebrate this tasty and nutritious family of foods.

What are Pulses?

In Australia, grain legumes are generally referred to as ‘pulses.’ The term ‘pulse’ is derived from the Latin ‘pulse,’ meaning ‘seed or grain that can be made into a thick soup’. These are perfect for the upcoming colder months, wouldn’t you say? They are very healthy and cost effective for everyone to include as part of a balanced meal plan. The types of pulses which are commonly found in our local Australian supermarkets and grocers are:

split peas, kidney beans, baked beans (navy beans), soy beans, chickpeas, four bean mix, Lupin, and red, green or brown lentils. Most of these are readily available in dry or canned varieties (both of which pack a nutritional punch).

These tasty morsels are high in dietary fibre, which helps to keep our bowels healthy. They are also a good source of soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol levels. Legumes are a source of carbohydrate and have a low glycaemic index (GI). This means they are broken down more slowly so you feel fuller for longer. This makes them a particularly good food for weight management, preventing and managing diabetes.

They are also made up of protein, making them an ideal base to a vegetarian dish or a substitute for meat. They are very cheap to buy (fantastic to stock the pantry with), so including them as the main protein in your meals can save you money on your grocery bills.

However the good news doesn’t stop there. They are also a good source of folate and antioxidants, low in saturated fat and high in B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium.

Now that you know the benefits, there’s no better time to pop more pulses in your shopping trolley.

Here are some simple ways to incorporate pulses, to enhance your favourite recipes:

  • Add lentils to winter warmer soup recipes or try a red lentil soup as something different.
  • Throw in chickpeas or soy beans to stir-fry dishes.
  • Boost up casseroles and stews by adding beans and lentils, e.g. add kidney beans to chilli con carne.
  • As a snack, oven roast some chickpeas with a little paprika and a light spray of olive oil.
  • Make your salads satisfying by using four bean mix as a salad base and add lots of vegetables.
  • Use hummus (bought from store or make your own using chickpeas) with vegetable sticks for a snack between main meals.
  • Small tins of baked beans make a great snack, or for a fibre-filled breakfast served on toast.
  • Red kidney beans or soy beans are a great inclusion in lasagna or tacos.
  • Have you tried lentil or chickpea patties? They are quick and easy to put together and make a great healthy burger when combined with lots of salad.
  • When baking, substitute around 10% of wheat flour with lupin flour to prepare higher fibre, higher protein and lower GI foods.

With this being the year to celebrate the pulse, why not put your finger on the ‘pulse,’ and see one of our Accredited Practicing Dietitians, to dig a little deeper into your nutritional needs. Our team can help you plan ways to include more pulses in your eating plan and provide you with recipes and meal ideas.

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