The UN has officially designated 2016 as the “International Year of Pulses.”
If you just nodded your head politely at this news and thought: “Pulses? Aren’t they a move from barre class?” Why, yes, they are.
However, pulses are also part of the legume family (plants with their fruit enclosed in a pod). The term refers to the dried seeds from the interior of the pod: including pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, adzuki beans, split peas, lima beans, and black-eyed peas, among others—all those yummy things that you sprinkle on your salad, dip a cucumber into, or add to your famous chili.
Pulses are getting buzzy and their very own year in the spotlight because, well, we all should be eating more of them. They’re packed with nutrition, are an incredibly sustainable food source, and according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published just last month can contribute to modest weight loss.
Jeanine Donofrio, founder of the popular food site Love and Lemons, says if you’re trying to make a concerted effort to eat less meat—and scared that means you’ll be just left with salads—pulses are your new best friend. “They’re high in protein and fiber, making them (I feel) essential to a plant-based diet,” she says. “I especially love to keep cooked or canned chickpeas or black beans on hand to make quick and easy satisfying meals.” (Keep reading for recipes.)
Pulses are crazy nutrient-dense and are an incredibly sustainable crop.
At wellness resort Canyon Ranch, “we are nutritional fans of white beans, such as navy and cannellini beans,” says Marilyn Majchrzak, MS, RDN. “These little nutrient rich gems contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and important vitamins and minerals, such as folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorous, copper and magnesium,” she gushes. (See her recipe for an amazing mashed potato substitute or dip.)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN declared 2016 the Year of Pulses, in large part because of their environmental-friendliness. “Pound for pound, beans require a lot less water to grow than animal sources of proteins,” explains Majchrzak. “They also enrich the soil by ‘fixing’ nitrogen and putting it back into the soil naturally, decreasing the need for fertilizers.”
With all this going for them, giving pulses their own year—and explaining the category to Americans who’ve already been loving the healthy foods—makes a ton of sense. All the more reason to get them on your plate.
Keep reading for two easy, healthy recipes that make smart use of pulses…
Veggie Black Bean Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce
By Love & Lemons
1 small Japanese eggplant, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped summer squash (yellow, pattypan, or zucchini)
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
6 corn or flour tortillas
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 avocado, diced
Handful of cilantro , serrano pepper, sliced (optional)
Crumbled cojita cheese (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chopped eggplant, squash, red pepper and tomatoes onto the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and pinches of salt and pepper and roast until golden brown around the edges 25-30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a food processor, blend together the tomatillo salsa, pepitas, avocado, spinach, olive oil, lime juice and pinches of salt and pepper, to taste. Chill until ready to use.
3. Assemble the tacos with the black beans, roasted vegetables, diced avocado, cilantro, serrano, cotija (if using), and a generous scoop of the avocado tomatillo sauce. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
4. Store extra sauce in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
Mashed White Beans
By Canyon Ranch
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, such as great northern or cannellini
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or bouillon
Optional toppings: A drizzle of olive oil, rosemary, a few crushed walnuts
Combine all ingredients in a blender container and puree for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth.
To learn more about the International Year of Pulses, and see more recipes with white beans and other pulses, visit pulsepledge.com