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Eat Local! Pulses

December 30, 2015

The United Nations has declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses”. What is a pulse you ask? Pulses are the nutritionally-dense edible seed of legumes which includes dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. They are nutrition power-houses that the average American eats very little of compared to other cultures. Those of us in the Pacific Northwest should be praising pulses as the Palouse produces over 75% of the chickpeas in the US and is the leading producer for lentils and other legumes. Surprised?

There’s even more reason to love pulses, here are my top three:

Nutrition: Pulses deliver serious plant protein – anywhere from 7-12 grams per cup. They deliver 4x more fiber than brown rice and are rich potassium, folate and antioxidants. Pulses are packed with iron, for example 1 serving of chickpeas have twice as much iron as 3 oz of chicken. Bonus: All pulses are all naturally gluten-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. For healthy vegetarians, pulses are a staple food and for those with blood sugar issues, because pulses are so high in fiber and protein, their glycemic index is low which means blood sugars won’t spike after a meal of garbanzo bean salad or lentil soup.

Sustainability: Pulse crops are good for the Earth! Because pulses are amongst very few crops that can produce their own nitrogen, they do not deplete the soil of this necessary nutrient. By pulling nitrogen from the air and returning it to the soil, pulse crops do not require as many fertilizers. They are also drought-tolerant and frost-hardy so they can grow in harsh environments – a necessity as the climate continues to change. Pulse crops can be used as a food crop, cash crop, fodder crop or rotation crop which makes pulses a win-win-win for farmers, consumers and mother Earth.

Versatility: From dried peas to beans, lentils or chickpeas, pulses can be added, substituted or highlighted in almost any dish. Lentils make a great meat alternative for tacos, soups and stews. Chickpea flour is a wonderful protein-rice substitute for wheat in gluten-free baked goods. Pea proteins make a great vegetarian option for adding protein to a smoothie or baked goods. Adding protein to salads doesn’t get any easier than some cooked lentils, chickpeas or beans. And what about soups? Soups are the most common way to use pulses in the Pacific Northwest and what better time to enjoy soups than during the winter months? Bon appetit!

Northwest Chili

At the core of this chili are the Northwest’s chickpeaInland NW Food Networks and lentils.

1 cup chopped onion

2 large garlic gloves, minced

1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup dry lentils, rinsed

1 cup diced potato

½ cup shredded carrots

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 Tbsp chili powder

3 cups homemade beef or chicken stock

1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (8oz) can tomato sauce

1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 ½ to 2 cups cooked from dry)

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large, heavy saucepan, cook onion and garlic in oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat them with oil.
  2. Add potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, chili powder and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  3. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, chickpeas and red pepper flakes. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Season to taste with red pepper, salt and black pepper.

Recipe adapted from USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council

 

Idaho’s Finest Winter Lentil Soup

A heart-healthy twist on classic Portuguese soup. Our version offers lentils, which provide great fiber and folate, nutrient-dense kale, and chicken sausage to enhance the savory flavor.

Inland NW Food Network

½ pound spicy chicken sausage (about 3 links), sliced into ½ inch pieces

1 small onion, diced

1 cup lentils, rinsed

3 cups water

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (homemade preferred)

½ bunch kale, collards or Swiss chard, de-stemmed and sliced thin (about 2 cups)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

1. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, brown sausage over moderate heat. Add onion and

cook until soft and golden.

2.  Add lentils, water and broth and bring to boil. Simmer covered, 30 minutes, or until

lentils are almost tender.

3. Add greens and simmer uncovered, about 10 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Just before serving, add lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper to taste.

These recipe is adapted from hearthealthywoman.com

 

More fun facts about pulses:

  • It takes the same time to prepare lentils and split peas as it takes to prepare pasta, quinoa or rice (15-30 minutes).
  • It takes 43 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of pulses. To produce 1 pound of beef, it takes 1,857 gallons of water.
  • Cost per serving of lentils is about $0.10…. verses $0.63 for chicken, $0.73 for pork and $1.49 for beef.
  • Per serving, red kidney beans have higher antioxidant content than blueberries and pomegranate juice.
  • Pulses are called the “perfect food” by some organizations because of their nutrition-potential, adaptability into all types of diets and ease of cooking.
  • You can use black beans or chickpeas as a base for cakes, brownies and cookies!

For more recipes and directions on how to prepare pulses, see www.cookingwithpulses.com or www.lyp2016.org

Article by Darci Barman, MSN, RDN, LD, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist practicing “foods-first,” functional nutrition at Pilgrim’s Wellness Clinic in Coeur d Alene, ID. For more healthy recipes or info on how to become a patient, see www.darcibarman.com

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