If you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s hot in nutrition, then you should add pulses to the list. The crop category for beans, peas, lentils and other legumes, pulses are moving from humble to hero status.
In fact, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the “Year of Pulses,” recognizing the role of pulse crops in sustainable agriculture and healthy diets worldwide. Heart healthy pulses are a good source of fiber, vegetable protein, B- vitamins, potassium, iron and are gluten free.
Pulses are gaining momentum in the marketplace, too.
Beyond bean salads and lentil soup, pulses starred as key ingredients in a wide range of healthy food products exhibited at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition (FNCE). “Beans were baked into chips and pasta, flavored up and packaged in ready-to-eat cartons, served in salads and soups and showcased in hummus,” said registered dietitian Janet Helm, trend spotter and author of the blog Nutrition Unplugged.
Dietitians attending FNCE sampled creative culinary uses for pulses including black bean pasta, green pea “ice cream” and red lentil hummus. Morningstar Farms, known for frozen vegetarian convenience foods, makes black bean burgers and chickpea pizza. “Food companies like to launch products at the expo because dietitians are always looking out for the latest good-for-you offerings,” says Helm. “Dietitians typically like to focus on what to enjoy instead of what to avoid.”
New food packages encourage good eating habits, too. DiGiorno boxes include a message to enjoy their pizza with a green salad.
Eat your vegetables, please
In nutrition research presented at FNCE, a State of the Plate survey showed fruit and vegetable offerings on restaurant menus are up 28 percent since 2010. That’s good news. But, registered dietitian Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation says their report found that overall consumption of fruit and vegetables in the U.S. has sadly declined 7 percent since 2010.
Not to be disheartened, she says there are pockets of improvement. “Millennials are eating more vegetables than five years ago,” Pivonka says. Gen Z, those born between 1990 and 2013, account for almost one-third of fruit and vegetable consumption. Baby boomers are eating fewer servings of produce, which surprised me. So perhaps, rather than mom and dad telling the kids to eat their vegetables, it will soon be the other way around.
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Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.