One of the discoveries we make as we learn about how to stay healthy is that it’s pretty much a full-time job. That doesn’t have to equate to tedium and drudgery. In fact, it can be fun to teach ourselves new ways to exercise, stay calm and eat.
But it does mean devoting time to educating ourselves – or re-educating ourselves about things people have known for ages.
For example, one of the healthiest groups of foods has been part of diets since the dawn of modern humans, and is being discovered again by chefs and others who appreciate its great qualities.
The name is strange but they’re good for you
A “pulse” is the unappetizing name for the edible seeds and legumes like chickpeas, lentils and dried peas. Not only will you now find them in more variety in your grocery store, you will be able to find plenty of recipes and easy cooking methods too.
They are low-calorie and high in vitamins and minerals. They contain at least twice the amount of protein of wheat, rice or oats. Once you eat them, they provide energy at a steady rate (unlike, say, a candy bar). Your heart will be healthier, your cholesterol will go down, and they are a great cure for constipation.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a department of the National Institutes of Health, notes that people have been eating pulses for at least 10,000 years (starting in Asia and the Mediterranean) and are among the most extensively used foods in the world. In addition to their nutritional value, the NCBI said, “pulses are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, making them particularly beneficial to people with diabetes by assisting in maintaining healthy blood glucose and insulin levels.”
These beans are hearty enough to use them as a meat substitute and, in the right combination, you can make entire tasty meals out of pulses.
Shortcuts for cooking
You can find all these types of beans in cans, but you have to be careful about sodium and other added ingredients. The healthier and less expensive way to enjoy your favorite pulse is to buy them dried and prepare them at home.
Traditional recipes require soaking for up to 12 hours before cooking. Happily, there is an invention called the Instant Pot that will render dried beans edible and ready for cooking in 90 minutes. These directions from Live Simply explain how.
Here are some beans to look for as you change to a healthier diet:
Good in salads and soups, kidney beans are often a substitute for ground meat in meals like tacos and even burgers.
A favorite in soups, but also good in salads and stir-fry meals.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are great in salads or curries and provide the base for luscious hummus.
Whether yellow, red or brown, lentils are packed with protein. In addition to lentil soup, add them to sauces and casseroles.
Peas from the garden, fava beans and black-eyed peas are also members of the pulse family. Spend some time learning about the specific qualities of each and then experiment with different recipes. Some will become your favorites, and you will have checked off one more box toward your journey to living as healthy a life as possible.
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