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Getting Pulses into Our Food System

Beans, pulses, legumes—which word do we use?

Beans, pulses, legumes—which word do we use? The authors begin this review article with a refresher in definitions of how these foods are all related. First, “legumes” is the all-encompassing word for dry fruit and pods containing dry seeds that fix nitrogen into the soil. Generally, legumes can be split into two categories, pulses and another category that includes soybeans, peanuts, green beans, and green peas. The pulse category can be further broken down into two types: dry beans, and another type that includes chickpeas, dry peas, and lentils. The distinction is made between these two types because chickpeas, dry peas, and lentils have different growing conditions, growth structure, and maturation than that of the dry bean type. Commonly, then, these three crops are collectively referred to as pulses, while dry beans, although technically pulses, are in their own category of edible bean crops.

Because pulse crops are so nutritious, inexpensive, and gluten-free, some of the ways they can be added to our food system are being researched continually. Chickpeas are high in protein, available carbohydrate, and crude fiber contents, and low in fat. They supply thiamin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Extruded chickpeas could expand snack products offerings currently using corn, the advantage being higher protein content and nutritional quality. Lentils and dry peas also have a similar nutritional profile as chickpeas. Lentils can be ground to a flour to make lentil cakes or a coating for vegetables, and dry pea flour can be mixed with wheat flour to produce new products for baking and frying. These value-added products “represent good alternatives to traditional cereal-based snacks” and “would increase pulse consumption.”

Asif M, Rooney LW, Ali R, Riaz MN. Application and opportunities of pulses in food system: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2013;53:1168-1179.


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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