Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family, Pulses include beans, lentils, and peas.
Can this tiny but ‘mighty’, age-old protein source be our perfect food? Could we have underestimated the health benefits of consuming pulses? How can we find more ways to incorporate these ‘perfect foods’ into our daily diet?
As we observe World Pulses Day on 10 February, let us celebrate this simple solution to the global ecological crisis of our age. Increasing pulses consumption can be the solution to the world’s most pressing issues: mitigating climate change; solving problems of malnutrition, as well as overcoming food insecurity.
Pulses are nutritious, delicious, affordable, promote weight loss and can help to reduce the risk of civilisation diseases e.g. cancer, type 2 diabetes.
At the same time, pulses are also good for our planet. They improve soil fertility and reduce the dependence on energy-intensive fertilisers. Compared to other sources of protein, they also contribute significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions.
Studies show also that growing pulses require significantly less water. This is important to remember as agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of total water use across the globe.
The fact that pulses are good for you is evident, and information on the benefits of beans and lentils are aplenty. However, many may not know that peas are part of the pulses family. And there are a whole host of reasons why you should be incorporating more peas into your meals.
Peas are versatile, you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert recipes. For a passionate foodie, like myself, there is also another bonus. Peas can be a game changer when it comes to salads, soups, curries, side dishes, breads and cakes. You can blend, boil, or crush them.
Peas can be found in Greek Fava Bean Dip, Indian Mattar Masala or British Mushy Peas.
So what makes peas so special ?
● According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, peas (as a member of the pulses family) can be counted as both a vegetable and as a protein food. They have a similar nutrient profile to other protein groups (which additionally provide iron and zinc) and vegetables (providing folate and potassium.)
● Peas are great when you are looking to lose some weight – they are valued primarily for the satiety they give, which means they keep you feeling full. This is mainly due to the large amount of fibre they contain.
● Peas are low in fat and moderate in calories.
● Peas are beneficial for people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. Peas have a low glycemic index, which means that blood sugar levels would rise very slowly after consumption.
● They can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as they are cholesterol free. Studies have shown that daily consumption of a serving of pulses, i.e. peas, lowers the concentration of so-called bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein - LDL) by 5%. This is important as high levels of LDL significantly raise the risk of stroke and heart diseases.
● As mentioned previously, pulses, including peas, promote weight loss – by reducing excess weight, you also reduce the risk of heart diseases.
● Regular consumption of pulses can decrease the risk of cancer due to the content of phytochemicals: substances which have proven to possess anti-cancer properties.
○ Saponins - slows the growth of tumours.
○ Protease Inhibitors – slow down the division of cancer cells,
○ Phytic Acid – slows down progression of tumours
● Pulses are also a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium and estrogens -like lignans. All these compounds are characterised by confirmed anti-carcinogenic activity.
● Due to its high content of fibre, consumption of pulses promotes gut health. Healthy gut health is crucial for a strong immune system (70% of our immune system is in the gut), digestion and central nervous system (our gut is connected to the brain).
Pulses are a superfood, easily available and nutrient dense. Unfortunately, they’re still not as popular in some cultures and cuisines. For example, in Chinese and Scandinavian cuisine, cooking pulses is not as popular as, for example, in Indian cuisine.
Due to cultural backgrounds, it might be difficult to immediately incorporate pulses into a daily diet. Fortunately, there are a lot of products in the market which can help you to increase consumption without changing your dietary preferences.
Pea protein and products derived from peas are great examples – they contain precious proteins and fibre, but don’t cause the associated bloating or gas. And just like pulses, these products are very versatile. Here you can check an easy and delicious pesto recipe
It is important to understand the reasons pea protein-based products might seem pricey as compared to soy-based proteins. In recent years, food producers and consumers are choosing pea proteins over other plant based sources like soy over concerns on GMO and risk of allergens. This strong market demand for pea protein can cause a shortage of the product at the market, and a higher price.
However, I believe the health benefits clearly outweigh the small cost issue. So now, no excuses, you can start to prepare delicious and nutritious dishes with pea protein in your own kitchen!
If you would like to cook with pea protein right away, head to this link (https://herby-vore.com/) to get your plant based pea protein block to create a variety of sweet and savoury plant-based recipes with one versatile ingredient.
NB: HerbYvore Plant Protein is only available in Singapore at the time this blog is written.