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The Food and Agriculture Organization is urging us to not only eat more pulses but also learn why they are excellent additions to our diets.
Defined as seeds that grow in pods, pulses include dried beans, dried peas, lentils, bambara nuts and chickpeas. In addition to being relatively high in essential nutrients like fiber, potassium, iron and B-vitamins, they are a terrific source of plant protein and the ultimate replacement for meat in the diet. Numerous studies indicate that pulses play an essential role in weight management, blood glucose control as well as heart and digestive health.
Environmentalists love pulses too. In addition to requiring less water than other protein foods, they restore the nitrogen in soil thereby reducing the need for artificial fertilizers.
This year, don’t just limit your pulse intakes to traditional dishes. Beyond ewa agoyin , bean pottage, akara and moin-moin, here are some delicious ways to enjoy dried peas, lentils, dried beans, chickpeas and bambara nuts.
1. Add them to stews, soups. Throw in one or more cups of your favorite pulses into a pot of stew. Not only does this add color, flavor, texture and fiber to your pot, it is also an affordable way to sneak in an extra serving of plant foods to your diet.
2. Use them in minced meat dishes. Making meatballs, spaghetti sauce or other minced meat dishes? Use only half the weight of minced meat called for in the recipe and add the rest of the weight in lentils.
3. Make hamburgers. Mash your favorite beans and add some vegetables and breadcrumbs to make a flavorful veggie burger without the added fat from meat.
4. Bake with them. Here’s a reason to bake. Replace the fat or oil called for in a recipe with pureed beans for a low fat, high fiber treat. Making brownies or other dark baked goodie? Try pureed black beans which add to the depth of the color while adding flavor and nutrients.
5. Toss them into salads. With their reds, browns, greens, yellows and other colors, pulses are an awesome way to eat in color. Taste the rainbow and bulk up your salads by adding boiled or roasted pulses in your salad. Pulses such as cowpeas tossed with colorful veggies and dressed with a simple oil and vinegar dressing make for a delicious stand alone salad.
6. Use them as a dip. Why dip your healthy veggies in some creamy artificially flavored sauce when you can have the smooth taste of chickpeas, black beans or bambara nuts instead? Just mash the beans add some garlic and spices and voila … health with every scoop!
7. Snack on them. Hungry in between meals? Ditch the fatty, high calorie, low nutrition foods and choose nutrition packed roasted chickpeas, bambara nuts or dried peas. They contain slow digesting protein and fiber which leaves you full on protein for a longer period of time.
8. Spread them. Start your morning right with a serving of crushed pulses spread over toast. No need to make any special batches, simply use any pulse leftovers in the fridge for a high protein, high fiber replacement for eggs, bacon and other breakfast foods.
9. In lieu of wheat flour. Pound dried beans to a powder, sift the flour and replace 1 cup wheat flour with 1 cup of the sifted pulse flour. This will boost the fiber and protein content of your baked goods. Chickpeas, black and white beans are the most commonly found pulse flours but don’t be afraid to experiment with other pulses to see which work well for you.
10. Blend them. Goodbye whey protein, hello pea powder! Make your smoothies 100% vegan by using pea powder instead of whey, which is a form of cow protein.
Ready to commit to eating more pulses this year? Take the Pulse Pledge and join the thousands people world wide who improving their health with the power of pulses.
Here’s to your health!
Cordialis Msora-Kasago is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - an organization that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian.