The Magical Health Benefits of Pulses

By Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D. |

Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are a type of food known as pulses, and they’re nutritional powerhouses. Here’s how to use them.

pulses White Bean and Kale Soup

You probably have black beans or chickpeas in your pantry right now, but you may not realize how amazing they are for your health. The category of foods called pulses—which includes lentils, peas, chickpeas, and many varieties of beans—is an underrated group of superfoods.

Scientists have published an amazing amount of research on pulses. They’ve been shown to help:

  • Reduce blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers
  • Boost feelings of fullness and delay the return of hunger
  • Increase calorie burn and reduce belly fat

Pulses are an especially great food to include if you’re cutting back on meat, trying to lose weight, or want to save money on groceries. Plus, these protein-packed vegetables are easy to prep. You can use them in soups, on top of salads, and as sides.

Need ideas on how to use pulses? Check out my favorite pulse-based recipes.

Pulse Recipe #1: Baked Chickpea Cakes Over Sesame Mixed Greens

Baked Chickpea Cakes Over Sesame Mixed Greens

Serves: 1

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
  • ¼ cup fresh baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon water, divided
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 cup baby mixed greens
  • 6 grape tomatoes, halved

What to do: In a medium bowl, lightly mash chickpeas. Add onion, chopped spinach, Dijon, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon water.

Form into two round, flattened “cakes.” Bake on a cookie sheet lightly misted with olive oil nonstick spray in a preheated 350˚F oven for five minutes on each side or as desired.

Whisk remaining lemon juice, cayenne, and sea salt into tahini, along with 1 tablespoon water. Dress greens with tahini mixture, top with tomatoes, and baked chickpea cakes.

Pulse Recipe #2: White Bean and Kale Soup

pulses White Bean and Kale Soup

Serves: 1

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup organic low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt-free Italian herb seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • ½ cup Great Northern beans

What to do: In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté onion in olive oil and 2 tablespoons broth until translucent.

Add remaining broth, kale, garlic, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, paprika, pepper, salt, and balsamic, and stir for three to four minutes.

Stir in ½ cup water, and add tomato. Bring to a very brief boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about ten minutes.

Add beans to heat through.

Pulse Recipe #3: Savory Mashed Chickpea Scramble

Savory Mashed Chickpea Scramble

Serves: 1

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup minced white button mushrooms
  • ¼ cup organic low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free Italian herb seasoning
  • ½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and lightly mashed
  • ½ cup fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 3 chopped basil leaves

What to do: In a medium pan over low heat, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent.

Add bell pepper, mushrooms, broth, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and Italian seasoning, and sauté until bell pepper is tender.

Add chickpeas, spinach, and basil, and stir about three to four minutes to heat through.

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Recipes: Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Pulses—The New Superfood, by Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D. Photos: George Karabotsos.

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