Who should eat pulses?
Everyone can benefit from eating pulses. Pulses are high in fibre, complex carbohydrates and low in fat. These nutrients make pulses an important part of any healthy diet and can help maintain a healthy weight.
Pulses have additional benefits for people who:
- Are overweight
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood cholesterol levels
- Tend to be constipated
- Have celiac disease
- Are vegetarians
Pulses are very high in fibre. They contain both soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibre helps lower blood cholesterol levels, while insoluble fibre helps with digestion as well as maintaining regular bowel movements. Fibre-rich foods like pulses are often more filling than other foods, helping to keep you full until your next meal.
Make sure to drink enough water when adding high fibre foods like pulses to your diet!
Pulses have a low glycemic index. Most of the carbohydrates in pulses are fibre and starch that prevent blood sugars from rising quickly after a meal or snack.
Pulses are an excellent source of folate, which has been shown to lower homocysteine levels.
Evidence suggests that high levels of homocysteine (a type of protein) damages the lining of arteries and promotes plaque buildup and blood clots. Over time, this damage can slow or block blood flow to the heart or brain causing a heart attack or stroke.
Pulses are gluten free and can be eaten by people with celiac disease. Pulses are a great alternative to wheat-based products. They add starch, fibre, protein, and many vitamins and minerals that may be lacking from a gluten-free diet.
A healthy vegetarian diet should include a variety of peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas in place of beef, pork, chicken and fish. Eating pulses with a grain, such as wheat, rice, or oats, ensures a high quality protein.
Soybeans contain all three of the macro-nutrients required for good nutrition: complete protein, carbohydrate and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folic acid and iron. Soybeans are the only common plant food that contains complete protein. Soybean protein provides all the essential amino acids in the amounts needed for human health. The amino acid profile of soy protein is nearly equivalent in quality to meat, egg and milk protein. Soybeans are low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, and are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Soybean consumption has been associated with the prevention of a few major health conditions, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
How many pulses should I eat?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating beans, lentils and peas often as an alternative to meat. One serving of pulses equals ¾ cup (175 mL), which is about the size of a tennis ball.
Pulses can be eaten every day. If you do not eat pulses often, start adding them to your diet gradually.
Beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are very nutritious. According to Health Canada’s guidelines, pulses are:
- An excellent source of fibre
- An excellent source of iron if eaten with a source of vitamin C
- An excellent source of folate
- Low in fat
- Free of saturated fat and cholesterol
- An excellent source of manganese
- Good source of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc
Soybeans are also very nutritious. They are:
- Comprised of all three of the macro-nutrients required for good nutrition
- Packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folic acid and iron
- A good source of protein
- Low in saturated fat
- An excellent source of dietary fibre