Have You Taken Your Pulse(s) Lately?

IYoP2016-colour-enIs it just me, or is the category of “pulse” foods one of those trends that just appeared out of nowhere.  I mean, I’m vegan, so lentils, chickpeas, and dried peas aren’t anything new to me.  I just grouped them in with “legumes” before last week.

But now, the ever-evolving world of healthy eating has come up with a new (to me) name for these things: pulses.  According to Pulse Canada (yes, there is a national organization devoted to pulses), here’s the difference between your everyday legumes and your pulses:

Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fibre, and are low in fat. Like their cousins in the legume family, pulses are nitrogen-fixing crops that improve the environmental sustainability of annual cropping systems.

What got them into the limelight is that the United Nations has declared 2016 “The Year of the Pulse.”Read the press release here. Why should we care about pulses? Because they…

are not merely cheap and delicious; they are also highly nutritious source of protein and vital micronutrients that can greatly benefit people’s health and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries.

The CBC Radio One program, Fresh Air, interviewed Canada’s ambassador for the International Year of the Pulse (yes, we have our own ambassador), Chef Michael Smith, before he hosted his launch event, a dinner featuring pulses.

Their show notes include the chef’s recipes for Chocolate Brownies (featuring black bean flour–let me know where you find that) and for Pulse Tacos (in which lentils plus your favourite beans or chickpeas take centre stage).

You can even take “the pulse pledge,” where you pledge to eat something with pulses at least once a week for the next ten weeks. Throw some chickpeas on your salad. Steam up some edamame (is that a pulse or just a legume?). Make a batch of dal. Whip up some delicious-looking Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes. You can find that recipe, plus a whole bunch more, on the Pulse Pledge website.

And when you sign up for the pulse pledge, you’re given the option of getting a new pulse recipe every (day? week? I can’t remember what they said but I soon will know) for the next ten weeks.

I like this pledge, and it’s not just because I already eat pulse foods just about every day.  I like it because eating these foods on a regular basis, particularly in place of animal-based proteins, is a good way to serve our own health while also taking care of the planet’s health (if you weren’t aware, livestock agriculture emits a lot of greenhouse gases, thus making it a large contributor to climate change).

And the UN claims that pulses are a great way to address rural poverty:

Pulses also offer a great potential to lift farmers out of rural poverty, as they can yield two to three time higher prices than cereals, and their processing provides additional economic opportunities, especially for women.

Take the pledge. If you’re not already eating pulse foods regularly, now’s a good time to experiment with what they have to offer. Cheap, delicious, and great plant-based protein sources, pulses are a food trend (if you can call it a “trend” — the UN does, even though we’re only two weeks into the pulse year) worth jumping on.

I’ve already signed up. And I’m planning to make this split pea soup on the weekend.



12 thoughts on “Have You Taken Your Pulse(s) Lately?

  1. I have a recipe for brownies made with cooked black beans (canned or fresh). I’ll post the recipe if I can find it. I’m taking rice and dal for lunch today, as it happens!

    1. Please do post! I’ve tried a recipe like that before and thought it was pretty good. If you didn’t know there were black beans in it, you were okay. But if you did know, you could tell. But on balance I thought it was a miracle recipe — eat a brownie while getting your black beans!

  2. Living in India as a teenager, I am very familiar with pulses named as pulses. And living in Toronto now, in Toronto’s “Little India,” I could put my hands on black bean flour at lots of local SE Asian grocery shops. A great resource for non-wheat (bean and pulse flours) is Iqbal Halal, a huge Asian grocery store – like a SE Asian Costco!

    1. Thanks for the shopping tip! And for the info that pulses are known as such. Somehow that escaped my radar for all these years.

  3. Check out Ambitious Kitchen for a for less black bean and avocado brownie recipe! I would live to eat more like that, but a certain member of my household is unwilling to compromise and try it. I even found a delicious lentil crockpot taco recipe that my two little kids loved and I was able to modify into a dip with black beans for a party. He still didn’t bite. He even watched Cowspiricy and still is cool with meat almost every meal. 🙁

    1. Maybe some of the recipes will let you sneak them in! Like the black bean brownie recipe. It’s a good place to start. Good luck!

  4. I knew the term but always thought it was a British thing. I hadn’t heard it used here until this challenge.

  5. I’m vegan as well, so I eat about 3 servings of legumes/ pulses per day. I’m really glad to see what I think are the most underrated health food finally getting some attention! They are so versatile, healthy and cheap.

  6. Hi, all. I’m a longtime fan/subscriber to this blog, and also a health/wellness writer for The Deseret News, and I’m working on article about the health benefits of pulses. If Meredith or anyone else who eats them regularly would be willing to talk with me about their diet, I would love to include them in the piece. You can reach me at Thanks so much.

  7. I’ve never heard the term “pulses” before! I live in the US and (selfishly) worry that the price of my lentils and dried beans would skyrocket if plain ol’ dried beans became “pulses!”

Comments are closed.