The Buzz: The Power of Pulses

What’s the buzz?
Pulses have taken over the snack aisle with better-for-you options.

What does the science say?
Pulses are having a serious moment, and we are here for it. New to the term? Pulses are the edible seeds of legumes, which include dried peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. These foods have grown in popularity with the trend toward eating more plants and choosing snacks that offer more nutrition, especially protein. Pulses have moved beyond hummus, power bowls and bean-based pastas. Chickpeas are leading the charge with puffed chickpeas, chocolate-covered and roasted chickpeas, cookie dough (it’s eggless, so you can eat it raw!), and even ice cream. But lentils and other pulses aren’t far behind, with chips, crisps, popped lentils, and dried broad beans now regularly appearing on supermarket shelves.

Nutritionally, pulses have a lot to offer. They are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and some phytonutrients. The power protein-and-fiber combo makes pulse-based foods a satisfying snack that can keep you energized and focused between meals. Pulse consumption has been linked to better cardiovascular health and blood sugar control. You get the most benefit from eating the pulse as close to its original form as possible (that’s why we always say that “real food rules”), but you can still reap some of the benefits of pulses from these packaged snacks, which are a great alternative to many less nutritious snacks out there.

To get the most from your pulse-based products, choose snacks that are primarily made from the bean, lentil, or pea. As with any food trend, you want to be skeptical of the marketing. Food manufacturers sometimes add very small amounts of the ingredient and then call out that trendy ingredient on the package. But a speck of chickpea flour isn’t going to move the needle on health. Ensure that the bean, lentil, or pea is the first or second ingredient listed on the package.

What’s the takeaway?
Expect to see more pulse-based snacks popping up in your grocery store aisles. Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas in particular offer many health benefits, and their protein and fiber can help curb a serious snack attack.