Healthy Habits

Check Your Pulse Consumption — Improve Health, Finances, and the Planet

Pulses, legumes, beans in dishes

Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits

From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD

“Beans, beans, the magical fruit” are the edible dried seed of the legume family of plants, also known as pulses. Pulses include all beans, peas, and lentils cooked from dry, canned, or frozen and have been cultivated for thousands of years. In fact, pulses are an important part of several dietary patterns, including the Mediterranean, Healthy Vegetarian, and Healthy U.S.-Style. These dietary patterns are based on ancient cultural food traditions, like the use of chickpeas in the Middle East, black-eyed peas in the Southern U.S., lentils in India, and gigante beans in Greece. These dietary patterns are linked to a lower risk of chronic disease.

Let’s dig into the nutrients that make pulses the backbone of healthy dietary patterns. Due to the variety of nutrients they contain, pulses are included in both vegetable and protein groups in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Aim to include a ½ cup serving of pulses at least three times a week to meet the recommended intake in the dietary patterns mentioned above.

A ½ cup cooked serving of pulses provides:

Daily Value*Nutrient
20%fiber, folate, and magnesium
10%protein, potassium, iron, manganese, and copper
6-8%selenium and zinc

*Based on a 2,000-calorie diet

Overall, the combined nutrients in pulses, when consumed regularly in the diet, are associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, lower body weight, higher intake of dietary fiber, and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

If you still aren’t convinced of pulses’ “magical” status, consider that pulses are one of the most sustainable foods on the planet due to their low carbon footprint. They are drought-tolerant, reducing water use, especially when compared to animal protein. It’s estimated to take 1,857 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef compared to merely 43 gallons to produce one pound of pulses.

An additional benefit is pulses don’t require chemical fertilizer because their crops replenish soil nitrogen as they grow. Around half of the world’s production of pulses occurs in developing nations, increasing food security in lower-socioeconomic areas.

Go ahead and stock your pantry with dried beans, peas, and lentils – they boast a long shelf life of up to two to three years. Maybe pulses really are the “magical fruit!”

Want to learn more about pulse varieties grown in the United States? Visit https://pulses.asia/about/.

References
https://www.usapulses.org/nutrition-professionals/pulses-rdn-toolkit/2-pulses-macronutrient-micronutrient-analysis
https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0919p38.shtml
https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/
https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods/beans-and-peas
https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf

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