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Pulses Nutrition Facts
Beans, peas and lentils, collectively known as pulses, are the dried seeds of the legume family. There are approximately 13,000 species, and the Leguminosae is the second largest family in the plant kingdom.
Health-wise, pulses are important as they are good sources of protein and soluble fiber and are low in fat. In order to make complete protein it is necessary to combine pulses with nuts, seeds and whole-grain cereals. Think brown basmati rice and lentil dahl, chickpea curry and brown rice pilaf, or even whole-wheat spaghetti with kidney bean ‘bolognaise’.
In a large study of almost 10,000 men and women in the USA, those who ate pulses four or more times a week had a 22 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events than those who ate pulses less than once a week. It appears that this health benefit was independent of other health habits since adjustments of other important confounders of cardiovascular disease resulted in minimal change in the risk estimates.
Additionally, pulses can help people concerned with weight control.
Lentils are legumes that grow like peas and beans in a pod, with two lentil seeds inside. They are fairly small and flat and when split into halves look like split peas. They never arrive fresh at the dinner table, but are cooked or boiled from dry and have an infinite shelf-life, one of the reason’s they were so popular with our ancestors.
There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, which range in color from yellow, orange, red, green, and brown to black and can be bought either with or without their skins.
Lentils are tasty and nutritious very rich in protein (about 26%), folic acid, and both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Lentils are also very high in vitamin C and the B vitamins, and contain eight of the essential amino acids. They also contain many trace minerals. Lentils are one of the highest sources of antioxidants found in winter growing legumes.
Soybeans are particularly nutritious, as they contain more protein than other pulses and are also a source of iron and calcium. Be aware that they must be fermented or thoroughly cooked this is important because undercooked soybeans contain a trypsin inhibitor that prevents assimilation of methionine (an amino acid). Fermented soya beans are used to produce tempeh and miso. Make sure the soy products you buy are fermented and made from non-genetically modified beans. Many pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and mung beans, among others, can also be sprouted, which significantly increases their already impressive nutritional value.
Being high in both soluble and insoluble fiber and with a low glycemic index, chickpeas can help you to feel fuller for longer, thereby helping to control appetite and manage weight. Eaten regularly they can also help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. They also contain fructo-oligosaccharides, a type of prebiotic carbohydrate fiber, which supports healthy gut flora. Maintaining a healthy balance of friendly bacteria in the colon is necessary to optimize digestive function and strengthen immunity.
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