In olden days people believed that those who eat good and quality food seldom fall sick. The royal family and the elite had access to all sorts of great food that can bring vitality. Whereas the poor could not afford to eat foods that were expensive however, they had few good sources of nutrition to thrive and survive. Amongst those were the pulses that were readily available for the people of all classes.
From hundreds of years pulses have been used extensively in almost all cuisines. European, African, American, Australian or Asian pulses are integral part of their cuisine. In some cultures pulses are also part of their rich cultural heritage.
What are pulses?
Pulses are dried seeds of leguminous plants that are naturally available in pods. These edible seeds can also be called ‘legumes’. Most famous pulses that are widely used are beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and mung beans etc.
Pulses and nutrition
As per many health experts, pulses provide more nutrition than any other food. Another best thing about consuming pulses is that they are utterly cheap compared to any other nutritious food. In fact many nutritionists recommend consuming pulses in place of health supplements for any healthy individual.
Pulses like dry beans, dried peas, lentils etc contain:
Vitamins and minerals
Pulses have proteins in abundance. In fact the protein content in pulses is almost twice the amount found in other protein rich foods such as whole grains, cereals, rice, oats, wheat or barely.
- Pulses have high amount of lysine-an essential amino acid complex compared to other cereals.
- Protein content in pulses are very beneficial for people following a vegan diet
Pulses contain complex carbohydrates that are beneficial for our metabolism and body.
- Complex carbohydrates consists of oligosaccharides and slowly metabolized starch
- Complex carbohydrates contain simple sugar units(3-6)
Just like the protein, nutrients and complex carbohydrates pulses also contain plenty of fibers that can facilitate a healthy digestion
- Soluble and insoluble fibers are present in the pulses
- Compared to most of the plant based foods, pulses are one of those that contain high amount of dietary fiber
With all these amazing nutritional components pulses are the most versatile foods that are available readily for consumption is all most all parts of the world. The benefits of consuming pulses are numerous with all most zero health risks.
Health benefits of pulses
Let us see how pulses can improve our health:
Pulses for various diseases
- High levels of bad cholesterol
According to researchers, pulse consumption for not less than three weeks has shown significant decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. What happens when the LDL levels are reduced? It naturally protects the patients from heart strokes.
Many health experts agree that eating at least 130 grams of any kind of pulse can decrease bad cholesterol by almost 5%. When a person vulnerable to heart strokes eats pulses regularly there will be reduced episodes (5-6%) of heart issues.
- Digestion/metabolic issues
Pulses contain soluble and insoluble fibers. Increased blood cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels are regulated by soluble fibers while insoluble fibers aid digestion. Consuming approximately 125 ml of pulses every single day can nourish the body with 7-17 grams of fiber.
When blood sugar levels are regulated it improves metabolic sensitivity and hence, the body’s metabolic rate will improve.
Obesity is a serious health condition that gives rise to a host of secondary health issues like arthritis, diabetes, thyroid imbalance etc. Pulses are great food option for those trying to reduce weight. Pulses are rich in low fat proteins that are needed for muscles.
When a person is trying to lose weight he needs protein to cope with the muscle loss. Pulses can be a great substitute for any protein drinks that one can plan to have in their weight loss routine. Another benefit of using pulses in weight management program is that they can curb appetite.
When consumed pulses often gives a feeling of fullness curbing appetite for further portions. Portion control is easy with pulses. Regular consumption of pulses are also known to curb cravings for sugary foods.
Iron deficiency can cause a number of health conditions such as anemia, pica etc. An anemic person has many other health risks that can be fatal. Anemic women are at risk of losing their pregnancy or worse life. Pulses contain high amount of folate that can rev up the iron content in the blood.
Consuming pulses in every day diet can be very effective for anemic patients to bring their hemoglobin count up to the normal level.
Potassium content in pulses can help greatly to reduce the high blood pressure. Pulses also have a calming effect when eaten regularly helping the person to relax.
Diabetes is an extremely difficult disease to manage. A diabetic patient often struggles to manage his blood sugar levels. A spike or plunge in blood sugar levels can cause a lot of distress for the patients. Diabetes can also cause obesity and other disorders.
Pulses have ‘low glycemic index’ upon consumption pulses tend to not stimulate blood sugar levels helping the patient to manage his diabetes. Pulses can also be an option for nutritious food that can help in diabetes management.
Another reason for using pulses in diabetes management is that they have complex carbohydrates that slowly digest resulting in blood sugar level regulation.
Stomach upset due to pulses
Some people worry about eating pulses because of stomach upset and flatulence. But with certain careful precautions everyone can enjoy pulses in their regular diet.
To avoid stomach upset due to pulses one can:
- Thoroughly soak the pulses in fresh water for at least 7-8 hours (in case of kidney beans it should be soaked for at least 12 hours)
- The water should be changed at least once before using the soaked pulses
- Soaked pulses can be used as dips, spreads, soups etc and people with sensitive stomach can slowly add pulses to their diet