The United Nations named 2016 the International Year of Pulses. I’ll be honest – even though pulses are a staple item in my kitchen, I don’t refer to them by that name, and I had to look that term up. So what are pulses?
Pulses, also known as grain legumes, are a group of 12 crops including dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils. Pulses are popular all over the world because they are:
- Highly nutritious
- Sustainable to grow
Pulses can be used as the foundation for many delicious, easy-to-prepare dishes. Take chickpeas, for example. Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are the most commonly consumed pulse in the world! Available dried or canned, chickpeas can be:
- Added to salads, soups or stews
- Ground and fried to create a dish called falafel
- Combined with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a ground sesame paste called tahini to create a delicious dip called hummus
- Used to make curried chickpea salad, a vegetarian version of chicken salad
- Prepared in many other ways. This recipe collection from The Kitchn offers 17 ways to use a can of chickpeas.
The USDA recommends that everyone consume legumes such as chickpeas, not just vegetarians, because they are high in nutrients like vegetable protein, fiber, folate, iron and magnesium. A one cup serving of chickpeas counts as both a serving of protein and one of your five daily servings of vegetables, because chickpeas and other pulses are part of both the vegetable group and the protein group. Substituting vegetable sources of protein, like pulses, for meat-based proteins can save you money and may prompt you to eat more vegetables, and research has shown that there are many reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables!