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.