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Health Food of the month - Pulses

April 2019

Different coloured pulses
Little power houses in a pod

Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Curds and Whey

Goats' meat



Diet & Supplements Index

How times change. When we were kids, a pulse was what the doctor felt when he checked you over.

Now pulses refer to specific beans and peas and other food sources that grow in a pod. This can include lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and split peas which all offer distinct health benefits.

Pulses were initially popularized by people turning to a vegetarian diet because they are a great source of protein; but in recent years they have been taken up by everyone and are now regularly included in the diet of millions of people across the UK.

This is not because of their taste. While pulses do have a unique texture and subtle flavour, generally they are included in recipes to offer nutrition and bulk rather than taste.

On nutrition, pulses are exceptional. They are low fat and generally offer high levels of protein plus minerals and fibre. A single serving of black beans, for instance,  will not only offer 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fibre, but will also offer iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc.  Different pulses can be chosen for different benefits; for instance lentils, with around 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fibre a serving, also offer all the essential amino acids that our needed by our bodie3s for muscle building, regeneration and strength. Lentils contain folate which can help in the formation of red blood cells; and it can also help maintain our homocysteine levels, something which can benefit our blood pressure. Mung beans offer high levels of folate as well.

There used to be some reluctance about buying pulses because of the belief that they can be poisonous. This is true only to the extent that kidney beans and soya beans both can contain toxins which can upset the body, so these need to be properly prepared. Tinned and dried kidney beans and soya beans are fine. Generally, otherwise they will need to be prepared carefully which can include soaking them for 12 hours, draining and rinsing them, and the boiling them for 10 minutes before cooking them for another hour or longer until tender.

Today, you can buy many versions of pulses which have been prepared and ready for quick cooking, or even ready to eat. But many still like to soak pulses before cooking as this can mimic the bean’s natural germination process and activate all the goodness in the seed. Soaking can also help to break down the difficult to digest carbohydrates and protein into simpler components, making them easier to be absorbed by the body.

Most pulses that you buy today will have careful preparation instructions on them and these can differ, so it is always well worth reading the labels before purchase.

Using pulses in recipes these days is so easy though. There are hundreds of different recipes based around all the various pulses to make nutritious and really tasty meals; and these aren’t just versions of the traditional curries that so many people associate with pulses. There is lots of information available including videos and recipes, including:


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