Food and Nutrition


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Anti-nutritional Properties of Pulses—The Bad and the Good

Pulses have a multitude of nutritional benefits including protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

As most know, pulses have a multitude of nutritional benefits including protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But many are not familiar with the many anti-nutritional properties of pulses, some of which are the reasons we soak them and cook them for longer periods of time than other dry foods such as whole grains. Pulses evolved anti-nutritional properties in order to prevent consumption from predators during adverse conditions. These properties are referred to as anti-nutritional compounds (ANCs) and categorized as protein and non-protein ANCs. Non-protein ANCs are relatively harmless and include alkaloids, phytic acid, saponins and other phenolic compounds. Protein ANCs have a range of potentially harmful components and are commonly represented by lectins, agglutinins, trypsin inhibitors, chymotrypsin inhibitors, and anti-fungal peptides.

Some studies have shown that “certain protein ANCs may have beneficial effects on human health after adequate processing procedures.” The present review focuses on three ANCs that have potential health benefits: lectins, protease inhibitors, and ACE [angiotensin converting enzyme] inhibiting peptides. ANCs are named thus because if pulses and other legumes and their flours are consumed raw, they can harm human health by gastrointestinal upset and blood coagulation. But when cooked, these factors are reduced. However, scientists are looking towards the nutraceutical applications of ANCs such as cancer prevention, immune enhancement, anti-inflammatories, hypertension treatment with ACE inhibitor factors, and antioxidant activity. Considering the potential health benefits of ANCs, the authors suggest that perhaps ‘antinutritional’ is a misnomer. At any rate, raw food movement or no, remember to soak and cook well your pulses and other legumes for best health. 

Roy F, Boye JI, Simpson BK. Bioactive proteins and peptides in pulse crops: pea, chickpea and lentil. Food Res Int 2010;43:432-442.


Summarized by the NDSU Extension Service.

Development of many of the materials on this website was made possible, in part, with funding from the Northern Pulse Growers Association.

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