Pulses are part of the food grain family known as legumes and include foods such as chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans and peanuts. Pulses are an important source of nutrition throughout the world but are not a common component of the typical Western diet, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Pulses are a good source of protein, fiber and essential nutrients, making them a healthy addition to your diet.
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Good for Your Heart
Including more pulses in your diet may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Pulses are high in fiber. For example, a 1 cup serving of cooked lentils contains more than 15 g of fiber, meeting 60 percent of your daily value. The fiber in the pulses may improve heart health by lowering cholesterol levels. Pulses also are high in potassium. Including more potassium-rich foods in your diet can lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium.
Lower Risk of Diabetes
Pulses are a low-glycemic index food. The glycemic index ranks food on how it affects your blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index cause only a small rise in blood sugar, while foods with a high glycemic index cause a spike in blood sugar. People who include more low-glycemic foods in their diet have lower rates of diabetes. And if you already have diabetes, including pulses in your diet can make it easier for you to manage your blood sugar.
High in Protein
Pulses also make a healthy and inexpensive source of protein. Most pulses do not provide all of the essential amino acids, making them an incomplete source of protein. But if you include other grains and vegetables in your diet, you should be able to meet all of your amino acid needs. Soy beans, however, are one of only a few plant foods that provide all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein like meat. A 1 cup serving of cooked soybeans contains 26 g of protein, while a 3 oz. portion of cooked chicken contains 24 g of protein.
Good Source of Folate
Pulses also are a good source of folate, a B vitamin needed to produce and maintain new cells. Folate is especially important during periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy and infancy. Women of childbearing age need adequate intake of folate to limit their risk of having a child born with a neural tube defect. Folate content varies among the different pulses. For example, a 1/2 cup serving of cooked black-eyed peas contains 105 mcg of folate, and the same size serving of cooked great northern beans contains 90 mcg.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Passion for Pulses
- Linus Pauling Institute; Legumes; Jane Hidgon; December 2005
- MayoClinic.com; High Fiber Foods; November 2009
- MayoClinic.com; Percent Daily Value: What Does it Mean?; Katherine Zeratsky; May 2010
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure
- The Glycemic Index: About
- "The Complete Book of Food Counts"; Corinne T. Netzer; 2009
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition Basics: Protein
- Office of Dietary Supplements; Folate; April 2009