The Power of Pulses

The Power of Pulses

Shelby Stein, RDN, LRD – Community Dietitian

Fall begins the time of year when comforting dishes like soups and chili are the perfect meal on a cold evening. Many of us use beans in our soups and chili but other than these dishes, many of us don’t cook with beans on a regular basis. Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family. This encompasses chickpeas, lentils, and dry peas and beans. More than a dozen varieties of dried beans are available, including black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, red beans, and lima beans. Pulses are little nutrition powerhouses, budget friendly, versatile, and not to mention super tasty. Pulses are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and iron while being low in fat and sodium and cholesterol-free. Due to this, regularly and frequently including pulses is one simple step towards eating a healthier, more nutritious diet. Research has indicated eating a diet rich in pulses can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol as well as can help manage these conditions. A pulse rich diet may also help with maintaining a healthy body weight.

One serving (one half cup cooked) contains roughly 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. All of this fiber helps to keep us feeling fuller longer, helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, and acts as food for our gut bacteria, which keeps our digestive systems running smoothly. But wait, won’t eating a bunch of beans all the time give me gas? It may. Some people experience an increase in flatulence when they add pulses to their diets however this typically resolves once these foods are consumed on a consistent basis. This is most commonly caused by bacterial fermentation of the carbohydrates (called oligosaccharides) found in the pulses once they reach our large intestine during digestion. Our intestinal bacteria adjust to feed on the foods we eat, so if we eat beans regularly these bacteria will acclimate and be able to digest the oligosaccharides more efficiently, which minimizes the unpleasant tummy troubles. Try starting with smaller portions of pulses and increase portion sizes slowly. Also, aim to incorporate pulse foods daily and make sure to drink plenty of water each day and any digestive symptoms should subside quickly.

Although pulses, primarily lentils and chickpeas, are grown in this region (North Dakota and Minnesota grow about half of the U.S. beans) many of us are slightly intimidated by bags of dried beans and lentils as we aren’t familiar with how to prepare them. Cooking dry pulses is a breeze once you get the hang of it and is a huge money saver! Dried pulses should not be consumed raw. To cook dried beans or chickpeas: place beans in a large pot, cover completely with water, soak for 8 hours or overnight, drain and rinse with cool water, then add enough water to cover beans by 2-3 inches, bring to a boil and simmer on low for 45 minutes to 2 hours or until tender. Beans can also be cooked after soaking using a Crock-Pot or pressure cooker (refer to appliance instructions for cooking times). To cook lentils: rinse lentils with water, in a pot add 2½ cups of water to every cup of lentils, bring to a boil and simmer on low for 10-40 minutes or until desired texture is reached. Try cooking large batches of pulses and once cooled, freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags for later use. For convenience, canned beans (black, kidney, pinto, garbanzo beans, etc.) can always be used, just be sure to drain and rinse thoroughly to remove excess sodium.

Pulses are highly versatile foods. Believe it or not they can even be added to smoothies and desserts like brownies and truffles! Try incorporating these simple pulse swaps to get more plant-powered protein in your diet. Replace half (or all) or the meat in tacos, lasagna, casseroles, chili, burritos, or spaghetti sauce with cooked beans or lentils. Swap some
hummus in place of mayo on a sandwich. When making burgers, substitute half of the meat with roughly mashed cooked pinto or kidney beans. Add a quarter to a half cup of cooked chickpeas or beans into a smoothie or add atop a salad. For a fiber-rich dessert you can feel good about, replace 1 cup of flour with 1 can of pureed drained black beans in your favorite brownie recipe. Below is one of my favorite recipes. Then I make these I like to double or triple the recipe. I cook all of the patties and then freeze the leftovers to be used later for quick and easy meals. They store well in the freezer for up to 6
months. To reheat, heat patties in a skillet over medium heat until hot (to make reheating quicker, thaw burgers overnight in the fridge).

Simple Black Bean Burgers
from Susan Voisin

• 1 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
• 2 cups cooked black beans or 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans
• ¾ cup salsa
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• Dash of cayenne pepper, if desired
• ½ cup frozen corn kernels

1. Place the oats in a food processor or blender and pulse 5-6 times until they are partially chopped (some will be powder and some will still be whole).
2. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients except the oats and corn. Mash this bean mixture until partially smooth. Add the corn and oats. Stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
4. Form bean mixture into 6 patties using approximately ½ cup for each.
5. Bake for 25-35 minutes, carefully flipping them halfway through.
They’re done when the outside is beginning to get crispy and they hold together well.

Nutrition Facts (per 1 burger): 160 calories, 1.5 g fat, 375 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber, 8 grams protein.