Pulsing with health

Pulses are a part of most traditional diets and are packed with health benefits

The pulse family consists of plants that produce a pod with seeds inside. They include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soya beans, lupins, lotus, alfalfa and peanuts. An extensive scientific paper has just reviewed all the relevant research to find out exactly what pulses do for us.

For a start,regular consumption of pulses can increase our longevity, help healthy weight management and prevent diabetes, colorectal cancer and heart disease. When it comes to heart disease, soya beans in particular are associated with cholesterol-lowering properties.  And what’s more, pulses also promote friendly gut bacteria which has many health-promoting effects on the whole body.

Pulses are an excellent source of protein, fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, copper and potassium. It’s true they also contain some anti-nutrients such as phytic acid that may reduce the absorption of beneficial minerals but the study highlights that traditional food preparation techniques, such as soaking, boiling, roasting, sprouting and fermenting, trigger a break-down of these anti-nutrients so we don’t need to worry about them so long as we don’t eat raw pulses.

There are also many healthy phytonutrients in pulses, including polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They are responsible for the colour of the seed so brightly coloured pulses, such as red lentils and kidney beans, have more polyphenols than white beans. Isoflavones (phytoestrogens), found in many pulses but particularly in soya, have been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, including breast and prostate, as well as  heart disease, osteoporosis and problems associated with menopause.

Kouris-Blazos and Belski, 2016. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins.  Asia Pacific Journal Clinical Nutrition. 25 (1) 1-17.