What’s The Pulse Level Of Your Diabetes Diet?

Consider checking your pantry’s stock of pulses, because eating them regularly is a good glucose management strategy.

Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family, and include dry peas, beans (e.g. navy, pinto), lentils, and chickpeas. We typically refer to pulses as legumes, a category for plants that bear fruit in a pod.

Pulse Benefits

Pulses are a tasty and healthy addition to anyone’s diet, but are especially advantageous for people with diabetes:

  • Full of Fiber. Pulses contain both soluble and insoluble fibers that slow the digestion and absorption of starches. This keeps our glucose levels steadier. A half cup of cooked pulses can contain up to 30 percent of our daily fiber needs.
  • Starch Resistance. The resistant starch in pulses are carbohydrate molecules that pass through the small intestine without being absorbed. They have similar digestive effects and benefits for blood sugar as fiber.
  • Slow Digesting Starch. Some pulse starch does digest in the small intestine, but at a slower pace than more rapidly digestible starches. This is better for glucose levels, and increases our sense of satiety, or meal satisfaction.
  • Low Fat. Pulses are low in total fat, saturated fat, and are trans fat, and cholesterol free. Regular consumption of pulses has been associated with decreased body weight.
  • Nutrient Rich. Pulses are considered a nutrient dense food, meaning they pack a vitamin and mineral punch without piling on the calories.

Eating pulses is not only helpful for glucose control, but is also good for our heart. Regular pulse consumption has been shown to improve blood lipid profiles, reduce LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and elevate HDL cholesterol.

A Pulse of Prevention

Adding plenty of pulses to our diet may also prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes. A recent European study involved people at high risk for heart disease, but without diabetes at the study’s start. It showed that individuals eating more pulses over four years had a 35 percent reduced diabetes risk, compared to those eating fewer pulses.

This study also revealed that lentils were particularly beneficial for decreasing the chances of type 2 diabetes onset. Just replacing half a daily serving of foods high in carbohydrate with a daily half-serving of lentils, or other pulses, could make a positive difference.

Cooking Lentils

For anyone eager to increase their diet’s pulse level, lentils are easy to prepare:

  1. Place 16 ounces of lentils in a sieve or colander, and rinse with cool running water; drain. (No soaking is required.)
  2. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, mix the lentils with 5 cups cool water. If desired, add flavorings such as chopped onion, minced garlic, bay leaf, or dried thyme. Vegetable or chicken broth can be substituted for some of the water.
  3. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lentils are just tender; stir occasionally. Cooking time is about 25 to 30 minutes (add 5 to 10 minutes for red lentils). Drain, and use as desired. Makes about 7 cups. Cooked lentils will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator.

Try tossing cooked lentils with chopped veggies such as cucumber, onion, tomato, and (or) carrots, and moisten with a vinaigrette. Sprinkle with cheese, sliced olives, or fresh basil.

Sources: Photo credit: Pulse Canada; Clinical Nutrition Journal; BHG; Yahoo News
Photo credit: Kenneth Leung

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