By Ruth Bourne*
THE United Nations has declared 2016 the “Year of the (dietary) Pulses”.
But, what exactly are dietary pulses?
Well, they are part of the legume family and consist of chickpeas, field peas, lentils, broad beans, mung beans, lupin beans and navy beans.
An economical source of protein, pulses contain a vast array of nutrients – they are high in fibre, carbohydrates and protein.
Pulses are an essential part of keeping our bowels healthy. Their fibre content helps with treating constipation and high cholesterol, and they are known to reduce the risk of diverticular disease and bowel cancer.
It is recommended that Australians aim for 25 to 30-grams of fibre per day.
Of the pulse family, lima beans have the highest amount of fibre with half a cup containing about seven grams. Both chickpeas and broad beans contain five grams in the same amount.
Pulses are low on the glycaemic index, meaning that the carbohydrate is digested slowly, helping to keep us fuller for longer.
Low glycaemic index foods help to manage and prevent diabetes through controlling blood sugar levels.
These foods are digested and absorbed into the blood at a slower rate, compared to higher glycaemic foods (for example, white bread, potato, processed cereals and short grain rice).
Pulses are a great source of protein. Low in saturated fat, they are great to use as a base for a vegetarian dish or as a meat substitute.
In Australia, legumes are considered part of both the “meat” and “vegetable” food groups.
Pulses contain about 20 to 30-grams of protein per 100-grams (similar to meat), along with high levels of B vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphate, zinc and magnesium.
These micronutrients are essential for growth and development. Legumes also contain folate, which is essential for women of a childbearing age.
If you find it hard to include pulses in your diet, try making cottage pie or shepherd’s pie using half lentils and half mince.
*Ruth Bourne is an accredited practising dietitian at Back in Motion Rosny Park. Ruth offers free initial assessments and can assist in menu planning, portion planning and managing post-surgical dietary advice.
Caption: Back in Motion dietitian Ruth Bourne explains to client Trish the many ways she can benefit from a diet rich in pulses.