Pulses...they don't sound sexy or trendy...
...or you might think they belong in a bygone era of long-haired hippies but they now have their own day! Indeed, you read that correctly!
The United Nations has nominated February 10th 2019 as the first World Pulses Day.
Why? Well it is being organised as an annual event to raise awareness of the multiple benefits of consuming pulses for people and for our planet.
The Global Pulse Confederation, GPC, have come up with 4 main reasons to eat more pulses!
PULSES ARE EARTH FRIENDLY. With a low carbon footprint they need less nitrogen fertilisers because they make their own from the soil and air.
HEALTHY SOIL. They can support a healthy and diverse farming system by improving soil health and enriching it with beneficial microbes.
FEED THE WORLD. With the world's population still growing, we will require a 70% increase in agricultural production by 2050. Pulses' low carbon footprint and water and soil efficiency make them an ideal sustainable food of the future.
WATER EFFICIENT. Pulses use a fraction of the water of other proteins. They use less than 200 litres of water to produce half a kilo compared to up to 3,000- 8,000 litres to produce the same amount of animal protein.
So, what exactly are PULSES?
Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and include all types of beans; black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans aka chickpeas and lentils, to name but a few!
They have an amazing nutritional profile being low in fat and high in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are the defence mechanism of plants, i.e.chemicals produced by them to stay healthy and ward off attack from insects and disease, ergo they can provide benefits for the humans who eat them!
My favourite has to be CHICKPEAS, for the rich buttery flavour and creamy texture but also for versatility and impressive nutritional profile.
One cup of cooked chickpeas is just about 270 calories but has a whopping 14.5 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fibre!
They also contain a very respectable amount of the trace minerals Molybdenum, Manganese and Phosphorus and copper but also 71% of the RDA of Folate (B9) and 20% RDA of Magnesium. Also present in good amounts are iron, zinc and potassium and other B Complex vitamins such as B1, B2 and B5, (which all work synergistically) , and Vitamin K for blood clotting and healthy bones.
It's no secret that we are facing a global obesity epidemic with 26% of adults in the UK now classed as OBESE, and 1 in 5 children in Year 6 classed as OBESE. In the US it fares no better with 2 out of 3 adults overweight or obese.
"Health risks such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and chronic kidney disease increase when a person’s BMI exceeds 23. In 2010, obesity and overweight were estimated to have caused 3.4 million deaths, most of which were from cardiovascular causes. Research indicates that if left unchecked, the rise in obesity could lead to future declines in life expectancy."
However, research has shown that eating chickpeas can help to combat obesity and support weight loss by REDUCING FOOD CRAVINGS and contributing to a feeling of fullness.
How do they do this? Well they have, as mentioned earlier, a high amount of soluble fibre, which slows down gastric emptying, that is the amount of time it takes for food to go from the stomach into the small intestine. They can also decrease the amount of ghrelin produced, the hormone that sharpens appetite and triggers hunger, think of the growling when your tummy is rumbling!
Crucially, chickpeas also contain a fermentable fibre called raffinose, which is prebiotic therefore feeding your beneficial gut bacteria leading to healthy mood and gut!
Chickpeas can also support cardiovascular function because the fibre also binds to and helps excrete the less helpful LDL Cholesterol, which if not excreted, can oxidise and go back into blood circulation leading to narrowed and hardened arteries, atherosclerosis. Furthermore , the magnesium in chickpeas, is vital in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
So, now you know all the science how do you get them into your diet?
Hummous is available so easily now and is also incredibly easy to make at home. Just adjust the spices and extra garlic, to make it your own.
I love, love , love roasted chickpeas. So cheap, quick and easy to make as a snack instead of crisps. Simply toss in a good glug of olive oil and sea salt, roast for about 10 minutes and stir in your favourite spice mix and or chilli at the end, so they don't burn. My favourite at the moment is smoked paprika, yum!
A simple lunch or supper is a sweet potato roasted and then topped with chickpeas, tahini dressing and some roast veggies, one tray cooking, my favourite kind!
A firm favourite in our household, recipe taken from The Happy Pear cookbook The World Of the Happy Pear, and given my own tweaks.
Aguafaba, or bean water, is the lovely juice we always drain down the sink when draining a tin of chickpeas. However, this is an amazing egg replacer in vegan baking for meringues and mousses!
FUN FACT: the word Aguafaba is now a Scrabble word and is worth 22 points!
Gram Flour, is chickpea flour and gluten free and widely used in the cooking of the Indian subcontinent.
In Conclusion :
With 1 in 8 Brits now vegetarian or vegan and with 33.5% of us cutting down on, or cutting out meat and no sign of this trend easing, maybe it's time to channel your inner hippy, improve your heart health, save the planet and the future of food for your children and the next generations to come.
Thank you for reading,
In good health,
Author: Patricia Alexander-Bird, BSc, Dip NT, mBANT
Registered Nutritional Therapist