What you need to know about pulses, the United Nation’s healthy food of the year

pulses In case you haven’t heard, the UN has officially declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (so long, quinoa), so now is the perfect time to whip up some black bean soup or eat more hummus.

But what, exactly, is a pulse? “Technically a seed that grows in a pod,” explains Jillian Tuchman, RD, the in-house nutritionist at Aloha. That includes all dried beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

And UN experts say pulses deserve recognition because they’re “a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe” and come with sustainable superpowers. “Pulses are leguminous plants that have nitrogen-fixing properties which can contribute to increasing soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment.”

To celebrate these of-the-moment legumes, we bring you three things you need to know (from nutrition facts and the best ways to eat more pulses this year), plus a delish recipe you’ll want to make asap… —Lindsey Black

(Photo: Flickr/elysepatten)


Get Started
pulses 1. Add them to your diet for important nutrients, but don’t go crazy

“Pulses are an excellent source of many nutrients and can easily be integrated into a healthy diet multiple times a week,” says Tuchman, who especially recommends them to vegans and vegetarians as a protein source (a half cup has 9 grams). “They’re a great alternative to preservative-laden soy products and are loaded with fiber,” she says.  A half-cup serving of lentils, for example, packs 8 grams of fiber. (That’s a third of the suggested daily requirement.)

One word of caution: If you don’t already eat a lot of fiber-filled foods, Tuchman advises, “start with a moderate amount, like a quarter cup. Consuming too much can produce flatulence and bloating.” (We warned you.)

(Photo: Flickr/emiline220)


pulses 2. Pair them with complementary foods for maximum nutrition

Beyond protein and fiber, pulses contain an impressive amount of micronutrients, like iron. (One serving of chickpeas contains 1.5 times as much iron as a three-ounce serving of flank steak, says Tuchman!)

But unlike heme iron from animals, pulses’ non-heme iron is a little bit harder for the body to absorb, she explains. One solution: “Preparing chickpeas with vegetables that contain vitamin C will aid in the iron being absorbed,” she says. How about some black bean chili topped with bell peppers and a squeeze of lime?

(Photo: Flickr/katherine_martinelli)


pulses 3. They’re really versatile as an ingredient and can be used for both sweet and savory recipes

You probably don’t look at chickpeas and think Cookie Dough Dip, but for Chocolate Covered Katie blogger and cookbook author Katie Higgins, a sweet tooth for beans couldn’t be more normal. “I grew up in Asia,” she says, “and putting beans in desserts there isn’t considered strange at all.” A self-proclaimed brownie queen, some of her favorite recipes include her gluten-free Black Bean Brownies and Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies.

Another food blogger, Kelsey Boyte, of Happyolks, loves dried beans for their savory side. “Not only do fresh cooked beans taste sublime, they’re really a cinch to whip up if you plan ahead,” she says. Her blog features tons of tantalizing pulse-packed recipes, but she whipped up the Curry Quinoa Collard Wraps on the next slide exclusively for Well+Good, to get you started.

(Photo: Chocolate Covered Katie)


pulses Happyolk’s Curry Quinoa Collard Wraps

Makes 1 large wrap

2 collard leaves, toughest part of the stem removed
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas *Soak chickpeas overnight in water, drain the next day, then place in a pot with a strip of kombu and set them over a low flame to gently simmer until tender. (You can also use canned.)
1 tsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp honey
salt to taste


1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup apple, sliced thin
1/4 cup carrot matchsticks
1/4 cup cucumber matchsticks
1/2 avocado, sliced or mashed

Cook the quinoa: Quinoa cooks like rice, 2:1 seed to water ratio. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor or high-speed blender, combine chickpeas with tahini, lemon juice, curry, honey, and salt. Blend thoroughly. Set aside.

For assembly: place collard leaf on a dry work surface. I prefer two leaves for a sturdier, travel-friendly wrap. Spread desired curry hummus across the middle of the collard. Distribute quinoa atop the hummus, then assemble with filling in order of preference—apple, carrot, cucumber, avocado, and cilantro. Roll like you would a burrito, folding the perpendicular over the filling, then carefully rolling horizontally over itself tightly.

Next up: 33 superfood soups (many starring pulses) that you can make in 30 minutes or less, and this killer yoga teacher-approved superfood hummus…

(Photo: Happyolks)


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