Help your pulse with pulses

Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. The most common pulses are dried beans, chickpeas, lentils and dried peas. Both economical and sustainable, pulses are a great way to add filling protein and fiber to your diet. Pulses’ unique fiber makeup has been linked to lowering bad LDL cholesterol, improved blood sugar control, weight control and improved regularity. In addition, regular pulse consumption has been linked to a lower blood pressure. Adding pulses to your daily diet is a great way to keep your heart in check during National Heart Month and beyond.

Cooking pulses:

Dried beans and chickpeas require soaking before cooking; lentils and dried peas do not. Pulses can be cooked on the stovetop, or you can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker to reduce the amount of hands-on time required. Red lentils cook in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, but most pulses take 45 to 60 minutes to cook. Cooked pulses can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days or frozen for several months. Canned pulses contain the same nutrition as dried pulses and are a great time-saving option. Look for no-salt-added canned varieties to keep your blood pressure in check. You can download a complete guide to cooking pulses on the Pulse Canada website at www.pulsecanada.com.

Five ways to add pulses to your daily diet:

• Start your day with pulses. Lentils can be cooked with your morning oats or eaten alone cooked with milk, nuts and a drizzle of honey and cinnamon. Cooked beans can be seasoned, mashed and spread on your morning toast.

• Add to soups and stews. Add one or more cups of cooked beans to your favorite soup to add color and filling fiber. See below for a recipe for Chickpea, Chorizo and Spinach Soup, a great weeknight meal for a chilly winter night.

• Stretch your meat budget with lentils. You can swap half the weight of ground meat for cooked lentils when making meatballs, tacos, spaghetti sauce and more.

• Use in baked goods. Garbanzo bean flour has a mild taste with a variety of uses. It can be used alone to make flatbread, or used in combination with other flours to make muffins, breads and more. Cooked beans and lentils can be pureed and used to add fiber to sweets including cookies and brownies.

• Great for snacking. Many companies make roasted and seasoned pulses like chickpeas and peas. Their satisfying crunch makes them a great swap for potato chips, and their protein and fiber content will keep you feeling full. Enjoy hummus, which is made with chickpeas, with raw veggies for another filling snack option.

Chickpea, Chorizo & Spinach Soup

Serves 4.

All you need:

4 oz Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced

4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed

1/2 tsp paprika (regular sweet)

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

4 cups baby spinach

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

All you do:

• Cook chorizo in a large pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat melts out, about 5 minutes. Set aside to drain on paper towels; discard fat.

• Add oil to the pot and place over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until just soft, 4 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes (or puree) and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas and sweet and smoked paprika; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for 20 minutes.

• Add spinach, pepper and the reserved chorizo; cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Nutrition Facts per serving (1-3/4 cups): 320 calories, 14g fat, 4g saturated fat, 23mg cholesterol, 643mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 6g sugars, 15g protein.

Daily values: 86% vitamin A, 43% vitamin C, 12% calcium, 26% iron.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Rachelle Deutz is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Marshall.

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