The Spotlight On… column by Joann DiFabio-Klinkner highlights a particular type of food, healthy or not. Joann educates us about the nutritional value of foods to help us make the healthiest choices we can. Read and learn about these foods so you can continue to feed your body the proper energy to achieve a balanced healthy diet. Over the next few months we’ve partnered with Mediterranean Snacks® to join them on their mission to educate, engage, and influence consumers to continue to make healthier choices when it comes to the foods and snacks they eat.
There is a category of crops out there that not many people have heard of. They’re called pulses. Let me guess…never heard of them, right? I didn’t think so! Well, pulses are not only good for your health, but they also have significant agricultural benefits. And in case you haven’t guessed by now, lentils, garbanzos, and peas all fall under the pulse category. We’re going to be specifically exploring the benefits of lentils, garbanzo beans, and peas, all of which help keep your digestive system running like a well-oiled machine.
A pulse is classified as a leguminous crop that yields anywhere between one and twelve seeds within a pod. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), pulses are classified as crops harvested solely for the dry seed. Pulses play an integral roll in crop rotation because they naturally “fix” nitrogen in the air and deposit it back into the soil, thus reducing the need for fertilizer. Some common examples of pulses are kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, pigeon peas, lentils, lima beans, and mung beans. In general, pulses are jam-packed with health benefits, like protein and fiber.
Since lentils are part of the legumes family, they pack a ton of protein and fiber (soluble and insoluble), both of which are great for digestion, lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and aiding in weight loss. Lentils are also high in iron without being high in fat and calories. Research shows that consumption of legumes such as lentils is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Lentils come in a variety of colors, but the most popular varieties in the United States are brown and green. All lentils have a pretty similar flavor across the board, but the brown and green types better retain their shape after cooking while other types become very soft and mushy. Whatever color you choose to enjoy, you will still reap the health benefits of these tiny legumes.
Garbanzo beans, also commonly called chick peas, are larger than lentils but similar in nutrition. They are sold both dried and canned. Because they are larger than lentils, they require a much longer cooking time, so purchasing them canned will save you some prep time in the kitchen.
Much like lentils, garbanzos are loaded with protein and fiber. They’re also a great source of complex carbohydrates, which boost energy without spiking blood sugar. What is unique about garbanzos, though, is that they contain valuable amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which the body uses to support the cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as the lungs.
You may have lined your peas up around your plate in various shapes to avoid eating them as a child, but you’re going to want to think twice about that once you read how healthy they actually are for you. They may look cute all lined up in their pod, but make no mistake; they are little green powerhouses of nutrition.
Peas, much like their fellow legumes, are high in protein and fiber. So it’s a given that they are great for digestion, heart health, and weight loss. But unlike their legume counter parts, peas contain a significant amount of Vitamin K, which aids in calcium retention in the bones. Their supplies of B vitamins also help combat osteoporosis. Peas also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, which help combat inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
What unifies these remarkable members of the legume family? They’re leading the charge in the battle of gluten-free snacks and foods. Legumes such as lentils, garbanzos and peas can be ground down into flour and used in anything from protein powders to baked goods as a wheat substitute. With the increasing prevalence of celiac disease and wheat sensitivities, bean and pea flours are becoming increasingly more popular in healthy snack foods, not only because they are wheat-free, but because they are jam-packed with healthy nutrients, too. If you want to be a part of the healthy snacking revolution, then skip those corn chips and pretzels and opt for lentil chips or lentil crackers from Mediterranean Snacks instead. Pair them with hummus for a double whammy of fiber and protein. One of my go-to favorites is Mediterranean Snacks, especially rosemary and the latest new flavor, tomato basil.
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