Chickpeas Are the New Chicken Breast: Why I Love Pulses

PULSES

Since I started eating a plant based diet, pulses have become one of my main staples. I usually have at least 3 servings a day (~ 1 can of beans). When it comes to making new recipes, I often use chickpeas where I would have previously used chicken breast. I use them so often because they are nutritious, satisfying, versatile and one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store.

2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulse by at the 68th UN General Assembly. The reason they decided to promote this food group is because they are healthy, sustainable and affordable.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are a part of the legume family. Legumes are any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod (Pulse Canada). Examples are soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and green beans. A pulse is a type of legume that includes the dried seed. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are just a few examples. Pulses are high in protein, high in fiber and low in fat.

The health benefits of pulses:

  • Low glycemic index – They provide you with the carbs you need to stay energized, but don’t provide the blood sugar spike that white pasta or white rice would. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
  • High in protein – Pulses range from containing about 20-27% of calories from protein. This makes them a good option for people following plant based diets or people who are reducing their meat consumption for various reasons.
  • High in fiber –  Fiber helps keep you fuller longer. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Fiber also helps lower LDL cholesterol, one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • High in iron – Pulses are high in iron. Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron will result in anemia, characterized by not producing enough red blood cells.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Pulses:

  • Water efficiency – 1 kg of lentils requires 50 liters of water, compared to 13,000 liters for 1 kg of beef. 1 kg of 85% lean ground beef contains about 2500 calories, 1 kg of dried lentils contains about 3500 calories. This means beef requires about 502 L/ 100 kcal, whereas lentils require about 1.42 L/ 100 kcal. (This was based on an infographic by the FAO. *They didn’t specify if that was the water used for 1kg dried or cooked lentils.).
  • Soil nitrogen  – Pulses can fix their own nitrogen in their soil. This results in them needing less fertilizer than other crops.
  • Great replacement for meat – Animal agriculture is one of the leading, if not the leading contributor to climate change. It has been cited as contributing anywhere from 18%51% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is also a major contributor to deforestationoverexploitation of marine life and pollution.
  • Lower on the food chain – One of the reasons plant based foods are better for the environment is because they are lower on the food chain. More plants go into feeding the animals for your food than just eating the plants directly.

Affordability:

Pulses have many health and environment benefits, but they are also one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 1 lb. of dried beans costs about $1.50, compared to about $4 for 1 lb. of beef (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 85% lean ground beef contains about 1137 kcal/lb., whereas 1 lb. of dried lentils contains about  1584 kcal/lb. This comes out to $3.50/1000 kcal of beef and $0.95/1000 kcal of lentils.

Their high protein and micronutrient content combined with their low cost makes pulses a great food to promote to fight food insecurity in developing nations.

IYP-Pulses-Facts-infographic

Recipes that Include Pulses:

Chickpeas and Corn Salad

Pesto Hummus

Chickpeas with Mustard and Capers Sauce

Tempeh and Black Beans Fajitas

Buffalo Chickpeas

Chickpeas and sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Chickpeas Avocado Salad

Chickpea Tomato Curry

Southwestern Stir Fry

Black Bean Salad

 

 

Learn More:

What is a Pulse? – Pulse Canada

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Health Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans – Harvard Health Blog

Pulses and Climate Change – FAO

Pulses Contribute to Food Security – FAO

International Year of the Pulse

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

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Chickpeas and Sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 cans of  Low Sodium Chickpeas (~3 cups cooked)
  • 2 Tbsp of Tahini
  • 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup of Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1/4 Red Onion
  • 4 cups of Spinach (raw)
  • 40 Cherry Tomatoes
  • Basil

*Serves 4

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and bake for 30 minutes. (Flip after 15 minutes)
  3. Mix the tahini, olive oil and soy milk.
  4. Add chopped garlic and basil to the tahini mix.
  5. Cook the chickpeas and spinach on light heat.
  6. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, chop into bit size pieces and put in serving bowl.
  7. Add the chickpeas and spinach to the serving bowl.
  8. Then add the onion and cherry tomatoes.
  9. Finally top the dish with the tahini sauce.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein?: The Best Plant Based Sources of Protein

Usually when people think of protein, they think of meat. Because of this, protein is a nutrient of concern for many people when it comes to plant based diets.  According to the CDC, we should get about 10-35% of our daily calories from protein. 50 g of protein is 200 calories. If a person is eating 2,000 calories/ day, that is about 10% of calories. Getting this amount of protein on a plant based diet should be easy as long as you eat enough calories. Here are some examples of high protein plant foods.

1. Black Beans

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Black beans have 15 g of protein per cup. This comes out to about 23% of calories from protein.

2. Pinto Beans

pinto-beans

1 cup of pinto beans contains 15 g protein, which is 22% of calories.

3. Peanuts

PEANUTS IN SHELLS SOFT LIGHT. Image shot 06/2007. Exact date unknown.

1 oz. of peanuts contains 8 g protein or 16% of calories.

4. Hemp Seeds

hemp-seeds

3 tbsp of hemp seeds contain 11 g of protein or about 25% of calories.

5. Almonds

Unknown

1 oz. of almonds contains 6 g of protein, which is about 13% of calories.

6. Lentils

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1 cup of lentils contains 18 g of protein, or 27% of calories.

7. Spinach 

Spinach on  white

100 g of spinach contains 3 g of protein or 30% of calories.

8. Chickpeas

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1 cup of chickpeas contains 15 g of protein or 19% of calories.

9. Quinoa

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1 cup of quinoa contains 8 g of protein or 15% of calories.

10. Broccoli

broccoli

1 cup of broccoli contains 3 g of protein or 20% of calories.

These are just some of the many higher protein plant foods. The bottom line is that as long as you eat real food, and eat enough calories, getting enough protein probably isn’t going to be an issue.

Nutrition Facts: Self Nutrition Data

Nutritional Upgrade: Pumpkin Spice Latte

The Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks is one of my favorite fall treats. That said, a tall (12 oz.) latte has nearly as much sugar as a can of Coke. They also aren’t very transparent when it comes to their ingredient list. The Food Babe recently did an investigation on this issue.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Ingredients:

  • Coffee
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 2 tbsp Canned Pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Coconut Milk: Almond Milk (filtered water, almonds), Coconut Milk (filtered water, coconut cream [coconut extract, water, xanthan gum, carrageenan, guar gum]), Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavors, Potassium Citrate, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Sunflower Lecithin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, D-Alpha-Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E).
  • 2 tsp Coconut Palm Sugar

Directions:

  1. Mix cinnamon, ginger and cloves into coffee grounds.
  2. Brew Coffee.
  3. Mix milk and pumpkin.
  4. Add coffee to pumpkin & milk.
  5. Add sugar to your liking.
  6. Enjoy 🙂

Nutritional Upgrade: French Fries

Mcdonald’s French Fries

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Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*, Citric Acid [Preservative]), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Salt. Prepared in Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid added to preserve freshness), Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

*The label says it contains 0g of trans fat, but the ingredients list has hydrogenated soybean oil on it. This means that it contains trans fat.

An interesting video on the decomposition of Mcdonald’s french fries.

Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Sweet Potato
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Curry Powder
  • A few dashes of Sea Salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 F
  2. Cut sweet potato into fries shape.
  3. Put fries on pan and pour olive oil on it. Mix evenly.
  4. Sprinkle spices and salt onto fries and mix evenly.
  5. Bake in oven for about 18 minutes.
  6. Turn fries over to opposite side and bake for another 18 minutes.
  7. Eat and enjoy 🙂

Southwestern Stir Fry

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Quinoa (cooked)
  • 2 cups of Black Beans (cooked, no salt)
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Jalapeño Peppers
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • 2 tbsp BBQ Sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Juice of 2 Limes

*Makes 4 servings.

Directions:

  1. Cook black beans and quinoa as instructed on packaging.
  2. Chop veggies
  3. Fry onions and jalapeños in coconut oil.
  4. Add in black beans and quinoa once veggies are cooked.
  5. Add in seasonings, lime juice and BBQ sauce.
  6. Eat and enjoy 🙂

*Leave in jalapeño seeds if you want the heat. Otherwise, leave them out.

Why Dark Leafy Greens are Awesome

Leafy-Greens

Dark leafy greens are among the most nutrient rich foods on the planet. Relative to the amount of calories they contain, they contain a very high number of micronutrients. Some of the most notable nutrients are iron, calcium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K1. Dark leafy greens are sources of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. In addition, dark leafy greens are rich in many phytochemicals with benefits and functions not even known yet.

Leafy greens can easily be snuck into different recipes. They make great bases in salads, can be combined with nearly any cooked food or blended into a smoothie. They also don’t take much effort to prepare/eat. They can cook quickly, blend easily and don’t require tedious amounts of chopping.

Swiss Chard Nutritional Information

Swiss Chard Nutrition Info

Swiss Chard Micronutrients

Swiss Chard Amino Acids

Spinach Nutritional Information

Spinach Nutrition Info

Spinach Nutrients

Spinach Amino Acids

Kale Nutritional Information

Kale Nutritional Information

Kale Nutrients

Kale Amino Acid

Learn More:

Health Benefits of Dark Leafy Greens

Nutrition Data (source of nutrition info)

Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables

USDA Dark Leafy Green Vegetables