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The Plusses of Pulses

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, chef and Together Counts™ partner who is passionate about food, I am committed to showing how all forms of fruits, vegetables, and pulses can be nutritious and flavorful. The United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, so what better time to promote the benefits of these amazing little foods?

Pulses, including lentils, beans (such as kidney, navy, butter), peas and chickpeas, are affordable, easily accessible and conveniently available in cans, dried or bagged form. They are a source of reliable nutrition for people around the world and can be enjoyed year-round. Check out these three need-to-know facts about pulses:

  1. Pulses are Nutrient Powerhouses

Pulses are calorie-friendly and loaded with good nutrition, especially complex carbohydrates, protein and micronutrients, including B vitamins, which are vital parts of a healthy diet. They are packed with folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Since they’re naturally low in fat and rich in fiber, enjoying pulses can play a notable role in helping to manage digestive health and regulate energy levels. They also help protect against type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as certain cancers. Canned or bagged, there is virtually no difference in nutritional value. It is incredible that so much goodness is packed into such a small, but delicious and versatile package!

  1. Cuisines Around the Globe Rely on Pulses

Cultures all over the world incorporate pulses into their recipes. From Africa and Asia to the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, pulses are a staple in many different cuisines, traditional and non-traditional. Canned varieties make it especially easy to experiment with different recipes; just open a can, drain and rinse before adding them to other ingredients. One of the best and most satisfying ways to enjoy pulses is by combining them with grains, such as in Green Tea Pesto Pasta or Creole Vegan Jambalaya, providing an excellent balance of essential amino acids. A little vitamin C in the form of a squeeze of citrus juice or sprinkling of fruit, as in Power Greens, Papaya and Black Bean Taco Bowl, also helps boost iron absorption, complements the earthy taste of pulses and makes for a refreshing summertime meal.

  1. Pulses are One of the Most Sustainable Crops

As concern over climate change, sustainability and food security continues to increase, growing and eating more pulses can help alleviate environmental strain. Pulses require significantly less water and fertilizer to grow than many other plants. As a steady source of nutrition for humans and feed for food animals, pulse crops play a major role in food security. Finally, pulses have a low food waste footprint as they can be stored in cans or dried for long periods of time while retaining their nutritional value.

The nutritional and flavor benefits of pulses are increasingly becoming recognized, as people look for healthful ways to improve their diet. Select a variety of canned and dried pulses from the shelves of your local grocery store and look for them on the menu of your favorite restaurants. Pulses are truly culinary “gems” of a healthy kitchen!

For recipes and more information on the nutritional benefits of canned food, including pulses, visit Mealtime.org. While there, you can sign-up to receive the Canned Food Alliance’s monthly e-newsletter,  Canned Food News,

Jackie Newgent, RDN, is a chef, media personality, and award-winning cookbook author of The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook and The With or Without Meat Cookbook. She’s a culinary instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and freelance recipe developer for Everyday with Rachael Ray and Livestrong.com. She’s a past national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has made professional guest appearances on dozens of television shows, including Good Morning America. Jackie’s unique recipe makeovers can be found on her blog, “Tasteovers by Jackie.”  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @jackienewgent. Jackie resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Check out these articles from Together Counts for more ideas on healthy foods, recipes and menus!

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