Top 12 Ways to Include Pulses in Your Diet

What are pulses? Linked with multiple health benefits, pulses include dried beans, lentils and peas. Here are 12 ways to include them in your diet today along with a collection of delicious pulse recipes.

From beans in your chili pot to chickpeas in your salad, it’s a really good idea to include a variety of healthy, sustainable, delicious, budget-friendly pulses in your diet more often. You can gain multiple nutrition and health benefits, slash your environmental footprint and food costs, plus save time in the kitchen with a few handy tips. I’m answering your top questions on pulses, plus providing my best tips and recipes for including more pulses in your healthy lifestyle. 

Italian Zucchini Boats with Vegan Pesto

What Are Pulses?

You may have heard this term recently, but it’s really nothing new. Pulses are defined as the dried edible seeds in the legume family, including dried beans, lentils, and peas. Some examples of popular pulses included chickpeas, lima beans, black beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas, and pinto beans, though there are many more varieties available. Pulses have been a staple crop for people since the beginning of time. Our early ancestors first learned to gather these edible seeds in the wild in their hunt for food, and later they began cultivating them during the earliest forms of agriculture. Pulses have been found in caves in Thailand and Egyptian tombs dating back some 11,000 years. In fact, nearly every culture has a pulse as a cornerstone in their traditional diets. Pulses are grown in 173 countries around the world and everywhere in the United States except Alaska. Different regions around the world have developed unique ways to enjoy pulses—from Peru’s lima bean dishes to Swedish pea soup to Middle Eastern classic hummus. Learn more about pulses here

Potato, Bean and Olive Salad

Pulse Nutrition and Health Benefits

Pulses are high in essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, antioxidant compounds, iron, potassium, and folate–all of which provide short and long term health benefits. These health benefits include obtaining energy needed to take on your day, digesting foods properly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that heart-healthy pulses may reduce the risks of heart disease, as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers. No wonder health experts suggest including pulses in your diet at least a few times per week. 

Pulses and the Planet

In addition to their rich nutritional profile, pulses play an important role in the sustainability of our planet. They have a low carbon, water, and land use footprint, are a natural fertilizer for the soil, and are cost effective at only about 10 cents per serving. These easy-to-grow, versatile foods can be stored for long periods of time, whether they’re canned, frozen, or dried, making them handy when you’re having a busy day and lack the time to prepare food. Since they have a long shelf life, you can minimize your trips to the grocery store, too.

Top 12 Ways to Include Pulses in Your Diet

So how can you incorporate more pulses in your diet? Check out my top 12 ways to increase your intake of pulses in a variety of fun, delicious, and healthy ways.

Vegetarian English Breakfast

1. Wake Up to Beans

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not start your mornings off with a rich protein-packed breakfast? You can serve beans with a side of a whole grain toast, english muffin, or potatoes to add healthy carbs for the energy you need to get through the day. Add some veggies and healthy fats and you’re ready to go!

Vegetarian Refried Beans

2. Snack to Your Heart’s Content

Who says snacks can’t be packed with nutrients? One of my favorite things to snack on is chips and bean dip, so I absolutely love whipping up some homemade refried beans with a side of baked tortilla chips to keep me feeling full and satisfied. It’s also a great addition to your Taco Tuesday.

Radish White Bean Toast

3. Whiz Them Up

Did you know that you can blend pulses up into a delicious spread? You can take just about any type of cooked bean, lentil, or pea and puree it in the blender to create an earthy spread to serve on toast or a sandwich. Enjoy bean spread as a snack with veggies or whole grain crackers, breakfast on toast, and even a quick sandwich with veggies. Bean spreads are packed with protein and fiber, and super simple to make. Store your bean spread in a container in the refrigerator for go-to solutions for a jam-packed day.

Vegan California Burrito Bowl

4. Bowl ‘em Over

Plant-powered bowls are my absolute favorite go-to meals for lunch and dinner. There is an endless variety of whole grains, pulses, veggies, and sauces you can include to have a healthy, well-balanced meal. All you need to do is layer in a foundation of cooked whole grains and pulses like chickpeas, lentils, or black beans; seasonal vegetables (try broccoli, kale, or tomatoes), and a flavorful sauce (tahini is my favorite), and dig in. Perfect for meal prep too.

Olive Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

5. Hummus Everything

Next time you’re looking for a savory snack that will satisfy your craving while also providing you with the nutrients your body needs, try making your own hummus. It pairs so well with vegetables, pita wraps, sandwiches, whole grain crackers, and grain bowls. There are also numerous ways to flavor hummus to add a flair, such as sun-dried tomato, avocado cilantro, pumpkin, and more! 

Curried Lentil Quinoa Soup

6. Dejeuner with Beans

Pulses are perfect for lunchtime, too! Try adding beans, lentils, and peas to salads, meal bowls, and wraps for starters. Canned beans offer an easy way to sprinkle on the pulse love into your lunch meals. Make up a pot of delicious bean or lentil soup, and warm it up for lunches during the week. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chickpea Bars 

7. Get to Baking with Beans

Did you know that you can create a delicious, healthy, plant-based dessert with a can of chickpeas or black beans? The liquid that comes from a can of pulses, such as chickpeas, is referred to as aquafaba, which may be whipped up to create a substitute for eggs. Plus, you can blend up the beans and add them to the batter of blondies, brownies, or bars for a creamy batter. And you can’t even tell! 

Mason Jar Kale Barley Salad with Turmeric Vinaigrette

8. Make it a Chickpea Love Affair

Chickpeas are in the limelight these days. So take full advantage of the love. You can eat them roasted, or mixed into salads, casseroles, pasta dishes, paella, tagine, and more! If you’re on the go to school, work, or travel, try making a delicious chickpea salad in a mason jar to go. All you have to do is crack open a can of chickpeas, and layer them along with leafy greens, veggies, and a flavorful, refreshing vinaigrette. 

Savory Vegan Lentil Mushroom Pie with Pastry

9. Turn to Comfort and Retro Foods

We all love comfort foods, right? And so many classic, retro, comforting meals include the humble pulse. From chili to tamale pie to vegetable pot pies, you can cozy up to the most satisfying meals featuring beans, lentils, and peas. Try sautéing your favorite veggies, mixing in pulses, topping it with a sage-filled pastry dough, and popping it in the oven for a meal to remember (featured above).

Curried Yellow Lentil Stew

10. Warm Up to Hearty Soup and Stews

Nothing beats a warm, comforting, nutritious soup. You can make it rich with spices, add your favorite seasonal vegetables, and–of course–beans. Then serve it with a side of whole grain bread and or a salad, and you’ve got a simple, economical plant-powered meal that the whole family will enjoy. 

Instant Pot Mexican Black Beans with Epazote

11. Grab Your Instant Pot or  Slow Cooker

Looking to save time? Just throw dried pulses into your instant pot with liquid, push the button, and you’ll be rewarded with perfectly cooked beans in mere minutes. You can get more creative by adding flavors and seasonings, such as turmeric, cumin, and chilis into a chickpea curry. On the other hand, soak your dried beans, dump them in a slow cooker with a variety of veggies and seasonings to create an amazing chili or stew. 

Mofongo with Red Beans

12. Go Global

Pulses are enjoyed in traditional diets around the world, so get cultural with your appreciation for beans, lentils, and chickpeas. By doing so, you’ll infuse your plate with color, flavor, textures, and flavors. Try mofongo, falafels, mung bean soup, chana masala, tabbouleh, Greek butter bean salad, and apricot chickpeas for a taste of pulse dishes from around the globe. 

Check out more of my favorite pulse recipes here: 

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