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Consider adding pulses for a heart-healthy diet

The pulse of various farm implements and machinery is thoroughly beating now in some areas of farmland and the home. Whenever one talks about the word pulse, it may not be what comes to mind in regard to what flows through a person’s veins.

It refers to the legumes belonging to the annual Leguminous family of dried beans, lentils, dried peas and chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. The various seeds come in many shapes, sizes and colors. These crops are harvested as dried edible seeds and differ from fresh vegetables such as green peas, fresh beans, soybeans or peanuts. The word pulse in this case only refers to the dried seeds of these legumes. Depending on the variety, the plants produce pods of 1 to 12 seeds.

Thousands and thousands of years ago the seeds of these plants were a staple part of the diets of people living in a region of the Middle East, known as the Fertile Crescent. They are still major foods in many country’s diets. Like many other foods, the seeds and recipes were spread from one country to another by people. The consumption and popularity of pulse foods introduced in the United States as foods are increasing with beans being one of the most nutritionally complete foods. The plants are also a large addition of Nitrogen to the soil. They also decrease greenhouse gases and use less water than other grain crops.

Various dried varieties can be found in stores as canned, in plastic bags or bulk. Other than lentils and dried peas, the others must be soaked in water before cooking. Do not add salt to the cooking water as it will toughen the item before cooking. Adding tomatoes at the beginning of cooking also increases cooking time. When cooking, check for tenderness before the time is up so the produce does not become mushy.

The raw beans may be soaked in water covering them 4 times their volume for 4 to 6 hours. When cooked, they may be refrigerated or frozen for later use. Canned beans, etc., are already cooked and ready to use, yet they should be rinsed in water before using. The reason is to remove some of the high salt and starch content. Some of the liquid may be used in casseroles, soups or sauces. They can be a short cut to recipes.

Some recipes recommend adding baking soda to cooking beans, especially in hard water areas. The baking soda increases the absorption of water but also destroys thiamine, an important B vitamin. Baking soda may also make the texture soft. If baking soda is used, it is recommended only using 1/8 teaspoon per 2 cups water.

Pulses contribute greatly to good health, various diets, and is a high protein substitute. They can be used in entrees, salads, breads and desserts. They may also be ground into a flour.

Many of us have cooked with these products for years without knowing they are a pulse crop. When using them, keep in mind they double in volume when cooked. The various seeds can be used in entrees, salads, breads and desserts plus flour. However, the stored products will begin to lose flavor after a year. The older beans may need more soaking time. If a white scum shows up when cooing beans just remove it with a large spoon.

The United States exports about 30% of the world’s total product of pulses. However, hundreds of varieties are grown in 173 countries around the world. Montana is among the greatest producers providing them in 2021. The bordering states of the Northern Plains and the Palouse area of Washington also contribute as heavy producers.

Something to think about: “Eating beans as part of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may improve your blood pressure and blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.” American Heart Association. 


2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 medium golden delicious apples, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2 to 3 Tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon all spice

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dips such as: Apple slices, carrot sticks, or whole-wheat crackers

In a food processor or blender, place the following ingredients: Chickpeas, apple, lemon juice, peanut butter, water, salt and spices. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate up to three days. Serve with dips. 


1 cucumber

2 tomatoes

1/2 red onion

1 can white beans, rinsed and drained

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Chop the cucumber and tomatoes in 1/2-inch pieces and dice the onion. Combine in a large bowl. Add the drained beans to the bowl and drizzle the olive oil over top. Toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


Aquafaba, liquid from one can chickpeas

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 cups dark chocolate chips

One 15-ounce can coconut milk


2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios

1 teaspoon orange zest

Pour the chickpea liquid into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to beat on high until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and cream of tarter while the mixer is running. Continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Place the chocolate in a large glass bowl and melt in the microwave or on the stove over a double boiler. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly, then fold it into the whipped chickpea meringue.

Place the coconut cream into a mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the coconut cream into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining.

Divide into four 1 cup containers and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top with chopped pistachios and orange zest before serving. 

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