Staying Healthy

Pulse power: Easy ways to make plant-based proteins a regular part of your diet

Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other "pulses" are loaded with protein, fiber, and other nutrients.

 Image: © mikafotostok/Thinkstock

Legumes are great sources of protein for those on a meat-free diet. Lately one branch of the legume family has been in the international spotlight. "Pulses" are legumes that are harvested for their dried seeds, such as chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, and dried peas and beans. They're such an important protein source that the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses.

"When we as nutritionists talk about beans, most of them are pulses — kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, broad beans, lima beans, butter beans — there are quite a few," says registered dietitian Kathy ­McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. By contrast, legumes such as soybeans, peanuts, peapods, and green beans don't count as pulses.

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