This will get your pulse going...

If you have a pulse, you’ve probably already been introduced to the idea that pulses are good for you.

"Pulses"?

They are a subset category of legumes - including dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils.

Pulse Canada does a good job of listing them all here.

But did you know that this year in particular, has been named International Year of the Pulses? That’s right, this entire year is dedicated to the glory that are pulses. In 2013, the UN declared 2016 International Year of the Pulses to encourage consumption (they are rich in protein and other essential nutrients), and furthermore to spread awareness of the challenges faced by pulse farmers - aiming to increase the security and sustainability of this market.

Regardless of which pulse you may consider devouring, one thing is clear - these little gems are INCREDIBLY healthy. To get specific, in 2014, research was gathered to show that consuming pulses for at least three weeks reduced LDL-cholesterol levels (i.e. the “bad cholesterol”), which in turn lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, pulses are rich in protein, fibre, iron, zinc, and they have a low glycemic index.  

The Meal Garden health rating for recipes featuring these nutritional powerhouses also sings their praises:

 

To no surprise - all mighty green leafs here!

I asked Registered Dietitian Carol Harrison why she is excited about International Year of the Pulses….

Whether in soups, salads, curries or pureed into baked goods, pulses taste terrific and they are chock block full of vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. The hunger-curbing protein-fibre combo in pulses is a key health benefit. Not only are you left feeling energized but it helps to keep our weight in check which reduces our risk for chronic disease. And if you think you don’t need to worry about chronic disease think again. Half of Canadians over 20 years of age are living with chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes and what we eat definitely affects our risk factors. Pulses are versatile, affordable and a great Canadian crop. When we buy Canadian pulses we are supporting our farmers and that helps to ensure we have a steady supply of safe, affordable and nutritious food grown right here close to home.

Carol Harrison, a registered dietitian and mom of three, founded YummyLunchClub.ca to help make healthy school lunches easier while encouraging kids to build food skills. Carol believes the healthy food choice should be the easy choice where kids learn, live and play. Email her at YummyLunchClub@gmail.com.

Just in time for International Hummus Day on May 13th, Carol shares this Veg Out Hummus featuring hummus made three ways with any of beets, sweet potato or carrots.

Don't worry, we already uploaded the recipe into Meal Garden so you can add it to your cookbook and start scheduling it now!

Note that if we dig deeper into how our health algorithm was developed (in large part with the help of Dr Livia Augustin, who has her PhD in Nutrition), it makes total sense that these pulses dishes are coming out with green leaf ratings. To explain, the Meal Garden health rating considers a variety of foods and nutrients - pulses and legumes being one category - based on research data widely accepted by the scientific community as well as national and international guidelines. All of this is factored into the health algorithm to produce an indicator of whether or not a recipe is “healthy” or “not so healthy”. More specifically, it asks: has the food or nutrient been shown to either increase or decrease the risk factors associated with hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes (T2D) and/or some cancers? The Meal Garden team worked with health experts and researchers to investigate those questions further.

I won’t bore you with the details, but to sum it up - there was a LOT of research to consider, and the stance on a diet rich in pulses boiled down to several health benefits such as decreasing blood sugar levels, as well as lowering cholesterol (as mentioned).

Now that you’ve hopefully jumped onboard this pulses-loving bandwagon with us, it’s time to start scheduling more to your meal plan.

No really, it’s time. Next month is Meat Free May, which means it’s the perfect time to increase your vegetable protein sources, and pulses are an obvious healthy choice. In fact, did you know that chickpea flour pasta has double the protein and quadruple the fibre content than regular wheat pasta?

If you want to get even MORE festive, International Hummus Day is coming up on May 13th - so mark your calendars!

Is it embarrassing that I’ve already planned out my entire hummus filled Friday the 13th?

Didn’t think so…

So, what are you waiting for? Get your pulse on! Start scheduling some more vegetable protein into your diet today...before International Hummus Day, Meat Free May, or even worse - International Year of the Pulses, comes and goes before you got a chance to celebrate it on Meal Garden!