Try including more pulses in your diet

Pulses include chickpeas and lentils, they are a great low-cost source of nutrients and can be used in a variety of meals.

So what is a pulse? I wondered the same thing when I first heard this term mentioned. Pulses are legumes or more accurately, the edible seeds of legumes. These seeds are nutrient dense and include all varieties of dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas or garbanzo beans.

While pulses are a primary source of protein for most of the world’s population, they are not used as often for protein in the United States. Most Americans depend on meat and fish sources for their protein. But there are good reasons to substitute pulses for part of the protein you eat each week. For one, pulses cost much less per serving than meat does. A serving of pulses costs about 10 cents where meat costs vary from about 60 cents per serving for chicken up to $1.50 per serving for beef.

Aside from cost savings, there are very good health reasons for eating pulses, which include:

  • Excellent source of fiber. All vegetables are good sources of fiber and pulses have the highest fiber of all vegetables.
  • Pulses are also an excellent source of iron offering more iron per serving than a serving from the meat group.
  • Excellent source of folic acid. This is especially important for pregnant women to lower the risk of neural tube defects.
  • A good source of potassium. A serving of pulses has as much potassium as one banana.
  • Good source of protein. Try serving pulses in place of meat protein in at least one meal per week to save money.
  • Pulses are very high in antioxidants that will help keep your immune system healthy.
  • As part of the vegetable family, pulses are naturally low in fat and sodium.
  • For people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, another benefit of pulses is that they are gluten free. The flours made from pulses can be used to produce gluten-free pasta and baked goods.

Pulses are so versatile, you can find many ways to incorporate them into your diet. I love putting chick peas and kidney beans on salads. Lentils, beans and split peas are great when made into soups. Pulses can be the main dish in your meal plan. For more information and recipes for cooking with pulses visit or the North Dakota Extension Service at

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