“Pulses” is a term describing the edible seeds of several leguminous plants, such as dry beans, dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses are one of the cornerstones of plant-based diets, along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Globally they are a dietary staple, as they are a source of protein, very affordable, store well, and are filling and flavorful. The United Nations has even declared 2016 the "International Year of Pulses" to raise awareness for pulses as a sustainable, nutritious and versatile crop.
Nutritionally, they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, protein and contain iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Pulses are associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and digestive disorders.
All forms of pulses are relatively inexpensive compared to animal protein sources. Dried beans offer the most bang for your buck. A pound of dried beans costs about three dollars for 12 servings. They take a little bit more effort to prepare - most require soaking overnight, but you can save time by preparing a big batch and keeping some for later.
- 1 cup dried beans = 2 cups cooked beans
Basic recipe for cooking dried beans: (Note: lentils/split peas do not require soaking)
- Place beans in a strainer, rinse well. Place in a pot with water and cover by 2”. Soak at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain the beans, rinse well. Return to cooking pot; add water to cover by 3”.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, skim off foam. Cover and simmer until beans are al dente. Add salt. Continue to simmer until tender.
- Refrigerate up to 4 days in air-tight container or freeze up to 1 month for best quality.
- Canned beans are a convenient option when you are short on time. Look for low sodium versions and rinse before using to significantly reduce the sodium content.