Are pulses toxic?

Well, if you are looking for a reason to avoid pulses, I am sure this will do. Beans are certainly, surprisingly, toxic. They are also surprisingly easy to make safe.

First, it’s mostly kidney and Lima beans that are toxic. Second, the toxins will make you moderately ill, at worst, unless you are eating your weight in beans. Third, it is laughably easy to make these beans safe.

Lima beans (also called butter beans when fresh) have linamarin in them, a compound that could potentially make you ill because of it’s similarity to cyanide. This toxin is broken up by cooking the beans, so the rule is to never eat raw Lima beans.

A different toxin, phytohaemagglutinin, a lectin, is also present in many beans. Red kidney beans are the worst culprit, however, and care should be given when making them. Again, cooking them will destroy the toxin. A hard boil for 10 minutes is enough to make the beans safe, but the FDA says 30 minutes just to be sure. The problem comes in slow cookers, which may not heat the beans high enough with low cooking temps. Pressure cookers, the range, and some slow cookers will be fine.

Again, these toxins are not fatal, and are easy to get rid of. And even if you do get sick, odds are it will last only a few hours. However, if you want to follow a ‘raw’ diet, pulses may not be your food of choice.

In addition, a small percentage of the population will potentially die from fava (broad) beans. These will only hurt you if you have a medical illness, but it is yet another way this incredibly healthy food can kill us.

So, if you really want to be a bummer at events and avoid eating beans at all costs, there you go. For the rest of us, let’s forge on!

(Lima beans are capitalized because they are named after Lima, Peru, where they have been cultivated for 6000+ years)

WHO is saying to eat pulses?

I’m so sorry. I will try to avoid that in the future. But yes, the WHO, the US and Canada are all pushing to eat more pulses. The UN actually made 2016 the ‘Year of the Pulse’ to try and get more people to eat them.

Yes, another post about how important it is to get more pulses into your diet. Because it simply can’t be emphasized enough that pulses are cheap, so affordable to everyone around the world, not just to trim a food budget; highly nutritious, so they can reduce malnutrition in poverty stricken countries, and add nutrition to the food rich but nutrition poor diets of many western countries; healthy, for digestive systems, hearts, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and many other lifestyle issues; good for the environment, because pulses add to the biodiversity of the soil they are grown in, contributing to healthier soil a healthier environment, and reducing the need for fertilizer; and good for the environment because they mitigate climate change and put less waste into our environment.

There are simply no reasons to not add pulses to your diet, or replace some proteins in your diet with them and many many reasons to do it. Of course, this is assuming you do not have one of the rare problems where you simply cannot digest pulses.

So you are sold, and you want to add more pulses to your diet? You are in luck, because one thing I have is a wide range of pulse meals to share.

Why do I love Pulses?

It’s obvious that I do from my first post on the subject. But why do I love them? Because they are healthy, cheap, taste good and quite often easy.

They are cheap. You can still find them in supermarkets for under $1 a pound for dry beans, which can be up to 16 servings. Even canned beans are incredibly cheap per serving compared to any other form of protein. Both canned and dried beans will last in a pantry for ages, so they are a worthwhile investment. You really can’t beat the price, and adding a pulse based meal or two to your menu will reduce your shopping budget substantially. There’s a reason why financial experts say you need to eat beans and rice while getting debt under control.

The easiest way to make a pulse is to pop open a can, rinse, and top with your favorite vinaigrette. You can’t get much simpler than that.

They taste good. There are so many ways to cook them even if you or your family professes to hate them, you’ll find one or two recipes everyone will love. And there are so many varieties of pulses, you may find one or two types that make all the difference.

And they are healthy. You’ve heard that before, I am sure. They are one of the highest fiber foods easily available, and fiber is key to weight loss, digestive health, reducing certain cancers, controlling blood sugar, and more. And with most first world countries saying people need to eat 25-38 grams of fiber a day, beans (with 7-14 grams of fiber per serving) are a good way to get extra fiber in.

In addition to fiber, beans are full of complex carbohydrates, which provide long term energy and reduce strain on your insulin level (they have a low glycemic index). A breakfast or lunch with beans will keep you going through the day better than one full of sugars.

Beans are also a protein and nutrient dense food. Canadian researches have learned that Canadians who eat more pulses have more nutrient rich diets overall.

And while you may have heard that protein in beans ‘isn’t complete’, in our modern world it is both not necessary to have complete proteins at every meal, and it is quite simple to ‘complete’ a pulse’s protein. You just add nuts or grains. Most cultures already have a grain accompaniment to traditional bean dishes, and that’s an easy addition.

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