Did you know we are living in the International Year of Pulses? Do you know what the hell pulses are?

Neither did we, but after doing some digging we can see why they’re cause for international celebration. Pulses date back 11,000 years and are defined as “annual leguminous crops yielding from one to twelve grains or seeds of variable size, shape and colour within a pod.” That translates into: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches & lupins. They actually help improve the soil they are planted in and require very little water to grow, making them a viable crop worldwide.

We asked Registered Dietition Sue Mah to give us the scoop.

SDTC: What do you love most about pulses?

SM: Wow, there are so many reasons why I love pulses, it’s hard to just pick one. Pulses are nutritious, healthy, delicious, economical, versatile and sustainable. As a dietitian, I love that pulses are packed with protein, fibre and essential nutrients like iron, folate and potassium. Research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that eating just one serving (3/4 cup) of pulses three times a week lowered the “bad” LDL cholesterol by 5%. And because pulses are a low glycemic index food, they cause a slower rise in blood sugar – which is good news for people with diabetes or anyone watching their blood sugar levels.

How can we incorporate more pulses into our lives? 

1. Cook with pulses. Make a three-bean chilli or a black bean burger. Add pulses to your favourite recipes – mix whole or puréed lentils into a Bolognese sauce, or add black beans to salsa or a quesadilla. Open up a can of chickpeas, rinse and drain, and toss it into a salad – easy!

2. Bake with pulses. It’s amazing what you can do with a can of puréed pulses! Years ago, I found this Chickpea Chocolate Cake recipe which uses one can of puréed chickpeas. It’s actually my daughter’s favourite dessert now! True story: the first time I made this recipe, my daughter exclaimed, “Lucky me, I got the piece without any bean in it!” Haha, fooled her!

3. Look for innovative products with pulses. For example, Country Harvest Rustic Bean Bread is made with whole grains and a blend of pulses (chickpeas, beans, lentils and peas). The bread is made with pulses that are 100% Canadian and are sourced from Western Canada. One slice of the bread contains six grams of protein (about the same amount of protein in a large egg) and three grams of fibre (about the same amount of fibre in a large kiwi).