What are Pulses and why are they good for you?

November 25, 2020

If you’re a fitness fanatic or follow a plant-based diet, you’ve probably already heard of pulses. They are part of the legume family and come in a whole host of different varieties for you to add into your meal plan. Better yet, they don’t just taste good, but are good for you, containing an array of health benefits. This TREK blog will tell you everything you need to know about pulses and why you should eat more of this nutritious food group.

WHAT ARE PULSES?

Pulses are a strand of the legume family (legumes are plants that grow in pods) and, if you want to get into the specifics, they are the seed part of legumes. The most common types of pulses are lentils, beans and peas – they’re probably foods you eat regularly already!

Pulses are a rich source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. They also contain high levels of fibre and iron, which make them a good food for people with anaemia or iron deficiency. If that wasn’t enough this clever food group also contains complex carbohydrates and are low in fat, making them a great, healthy option to eat.

TYPES OF PULSES

There are lots of different types of pulses! Some with names you will recognise, and other more unusual varieties you should try. Here are just a few:

  • Dry beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Faba Beans
  • Cowpeas
  • Bambara beans
  • Pigeon peas

HEALTH BENEFITS OF PULSES

So what is it that makes pulses such an important part of our diet? They are packed with essential vitamins like thiamine, iron and magnesium, making them a great addition to any diet – especially a vegan diet where you need to get your vitamins and minerals from plant based ingredients. Here are the main reasons why pulses pack such a nutritional punch:

1.THEY ARE A GREAT VEGAN SOURCE OF PROTEIN

Pulses are a fantastic plant-based source of protein making it an especially important food for maintaining a healthy vegan diet as meat eaters will typically get most of their protein from meat.

You’ll find a whopping 15g (on average) of protein in a cup of pulses. That’s pretty much a third (again, on average) of your recommended daily protein – how good is that?! They’re also celebrated for being a low-fat type of protein especially when you compare them to other sources of protein such as meat, fish and certain types of nuts.

Explore more vegan sources of protein, or try one of our TREK bars which are all high in protein and made from 100% plant based ingredients.

2. THEY ARE A FIBRE RICH FOOD

Fibre is a key part of a balanced diet and is especially important for keeping your gut healthy. Pulses are regarded as a high source of fibre due to the presence of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Not sure what that means? Here’s a quick explanation of those terms:

  1. Soluble fibre – helps to control blood sugar levels, body weight and lower cholesterol.
  2. Insoluble fibre – this is the part that regulates your digestive system and keeps your digestion working in the way it should be. Insoluble fibre is also super important for keeping your heart healthy – there’s no end to the benefits!

3. THEY’RE A SOURCE OF FOLATE

Folate is a B vitamin which is required for the production and maintenance of new cells making it an especially important nutrient for growth. The presence of folate in pulses means the ingredient is a beneficial addition to diets for children and pregnant women.

4. THEY’RE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

Nitrogen-rich soil is required in order for crops to thrive. As pulses are a nitrogen-fixing plant, they make significantly less impact on the environment due to their natural ability to grow without the help of fertilisers or pesticides. In fact, they actually increase the presence of nitrogen in the soil leaving a healthy patch for new crops. Not only are they delicious but they’re super considerate too!

5. PULSES ARE A VERSATILE COOKING INGREDIENT

There is an endless array of vegan meal ideas using pulses as they blend particularly well with salads, stews and curries. Plus, you can stock up on a bunch of pulses without breaking the bank; they’re cheap and readily available. Need some foodie inspiration? Why not try a puy lentil salad with peppers, a winter warming pumpkin stew or an aubergine and green lentil curry.

In conclusion, pulses are a highly nutritious, protein-rich food source. They can be cooked and enjoyed in a variety of dishes, and also eaten raw when sprouted. In general, pulses make for a great addition to any healthy diet plan, whether you’re looking to reduce your meat intake or simply increase the amount of plant-based foods in your meals. Whatever the reason, have fun experimenting with this clever food group!

For more useful TREK blogs on nutrition, read our articles on High Protein Snacks and Diet For Strength Training. Or for the ultimate, high protein snack buy a TREK bar today!