As a yoga teacher, I often talk about the pulsations in life – our breath, heart beating, eyes blinking, expansion and contraction. As a dietitian, pulses excite and flutter my heart. Crazy, I know, but I go a little nuts over good tasting, healthy food. My body actually zings, hums, rocks out a bit when I eat close to the earth and foods that haven’t been over-cooked or processed.
Pulses are a type of legume, or seed that grows in a pod. You might be familiar with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils and dry peas. These contain phytochemicals that may reduce risk of diseases. These power houses are chock full of protein, complex carbs, and vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc with very little, if any, fat, sodium or cholesterol.
OK, that’s the nutrition stuff.
Disease risk? Pulses are gluten-free so excellent for all those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity. Great for people with diabetes because of their low glycemic index meaning blood sugar stays stable. Definitely vegetarian. And key for weight loss, which reverses risk of heart disease – and all that fiber means feeling full a whole lot longer. One cup of cooked lentils has about half the daily fiber recommendation for adults.
Pulses are the simplest food and easiest to prepare. Food markets will have pulses in cans, and dried in bags or in bulk. The flavor and texture of using dry chickpeas instead of canned is indescribable. You can opt to soak them overnight for faster cooking. Lentils and dry split peas do not need soaking and are optimal for quick evening meals, less than 30 minutes. (Add salt and tomatoes toward the end of cooking to keep the lentils and peas softer.)
Variety on the menu of pulses offers color, taste, texture that is filling, warm and comforting. Try these as our nights are getting chilly:
- Lentil or chickpea curry served over rice
- Add lentils to spaghetti sauce, soups, chili
- Make a pot of lentil soup or split pea soup – leave out the ham and other meat and liberally use spices
- Homemade hummus is easy – cooked chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil.
- Top a green leafy salad with cooked lentils or chickpeas for protein
Coconut Curried Chickpeas, Cauliflower and Spinach
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 1/2 cups stemmed, coarsely chopped spinach
- 3 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
- 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbs. Homemade Curry Powder or good-quality commercial brand
- 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced on diagonal
- 3 cups cut green cabbage (2-inch pieces)
- 2 Tbs. vegetable broth or water
- 4 cups cooked chickpeas or rinsed canned chickpeas
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- In wok, bring 2 1/2 quarts lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add cauliflower and cook 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Set wok over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add garlic, onion and 1 teaspoon salt and stir-fry 1 minute. Add curry powder and stir-fry 1 minute (curry will absorb most of oil). Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, then carrots, cabbage and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and stir-fry 2 minutes.
- Gradually drizzle broth around outer perimeter of vegetables (not in the center.) Cover and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and coconut milk and cook, uncovered, 2 1/2 minutes.
- Add spinach, reserved cauliflower and cilantro and cook, stirring, just until spinach begins to wilt, about 1 minute. Serve hot.
Per serving: Calories: 341, Protein: 14g, Total fat: 13g, Carbs: 46g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 796mg, Fiber: 11g, Sugars: g