Here, with Levinson’s help, we outline the unique nutritional perks of each pulse, plus new, ultra delicious ways to eat them:
1) Split Peas
In addition to the aforementioned pulse perks, dried split peas pack as much heart-healthy potassium as a banana. But their culinary use is no longer limited to pea soup—they can be whipped into a healthy, high-protein dips like this one from The Greek Glutton, and even blended intosmoothies in the form of pea protein. In fact, pea protein is so hot right now that it’s being added to all sorts of packaged picks to up their fullness factor, from Earth Balance Protein Peanut Blend to FlapJacked Protein Pancake & Baking Mix—and no, you can’t even taste it.
There are countless bean varieties, all with their own nutritional perks. Some standouts: Black beans tend to be extra high in iron, delivering about 15% of your recommended daily intake per ½ cup; red beans pack more antioxidants than even blueberries and pomegranate juice; and cannellini beans have an extra low glycemic index (i.e. they spike your blood sugar the least).
Think you’ve seen all beans can do? Think again. Bean-based desserts are taking the foodie blogosphere by storm, as they’re the perfect creamy substitute for oil, cream, and butter in baked goods—just try these black bean brownies with avocado frosting and you’ll be a convert. Beans can even be used as a high-protein replacement for potatoes in countless recipes, like these mock mashed potatoes from Pickles & Honey; or blended with broth and used in place of heavy alfredo sauce to create dishes like this garlicky white bean pasta faux-fredo from Healthy Recipe Ecstasy.
3) Chickpeas (i.e. Garbanzo Beans)
This pulse delivers three times as much folate—a B vitamin essential for reproductive, nervous system, and cardiovascular health, and that’s been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers—than a serving of kale. It’s also the main ingredient in hummus, and for that we’re forever thankful!
But your culinary adventures with chickpeas aren’t limited to Mediterranean dishes. In fact, canned chickpeas will probably become your favorite new dessert ingredient when you make these 6-ingredient chocolate chip cookie dough bites. And chickpea flour—ground dried chickpeas—can be used to up the protein content of everything from breads to muffins to pancakes, like these 5-ingredient grain-free pancakes from Healthful Pursuit. Oh, and that’s not all. Perhaps the coolest (and wackiest) use for chickpeas is whipping the leftover liquid from the can with some sugar and vanilla to create eggless meringues—seriously.
Lentils stand out as the protein powerhouses of the pulse family, packing 9 grams per ½ cup serving, along with loads of heart-healthy folate andmagnesium—a mineral essential for bone health and easing muscle cramping and soreness.
Most vegetarians already know that lentils make a great meat substitute—Levinson’s favorite way to eat them: This drool-worthy vegetarian lentil bolognese over polenta cakes. But these no-bake chocolate peanut butter lentil cookies from The Recipe Rebel are proof of a lesser known secret about lentils—the pulse powerhouse can add an earthy richness to chocolate desserts.