Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pulses, nuts and seeds

Pulses - peas, beans and lentils - are an inexpensive protein option. They are low in saturated fat and cholesterol free, plus they are a good source of fibre. Due to this, they are believed to help reduce blood cholesterol. They also have a very low GI, so they keep you feeling fuller for longer. Winners all round!

Some pulses are available precooked and tinned eg chickpeas, lentils, butter beans, cannellini beans. These need to be thoroughly rinsed and drained before being eaten. All pulses are available dried, but (apart from split peas and lentils) they all need to be soaked overnight before being cooked. And some of them can take an hour to cook. At the beginning of winter, I always buy in a large supply of dried pulses. I soak them, cook them and then flash-freeze them. I love the convenience of frozen, and they are so handy for adding to soups, stews and casseroles. If you want to do this, allow yourself plenty of time. And freezer space - you'll need to freeze the cooked beans on a baking tin or tea tray - whatever will fit in your freezer. Once frozen, pour into zip bags before returning to the freezer for storage. Do NOT add salt to the cooking water, as this makes them tough.

Of the pulses, soya beans have the highest percentage protein (14%), then aduki beans (9.3%) followed by pinto beans (8.9%), lentils (8.8%) and kidney beans ((8.4%). Chickpeas - my personal favourite - have 7.7% protein.

Nuts and seeds are great for snacking, sprinkled on cereal or added to a salad. They are nutritious, high in fibre, a good protein source and low in saturated fats. They are, however, high in kcals / kjoules and total fats.
Sunflower seeds are the best seed choice for protein, and almonds, cashews and Brazils are the best nut choices.

In the case of these protein sources:
1 portion of protein = 2 Tblsp of cooked, drained pulses; OR 1 Tblsp seeds; OR 1-2 Tblsp nuts.

Sally has chosen 2 Tblsp of chickpeas to add to her pasta sauce, and 2 Tblsp cashew nuts to snack on. With the egg at lunchtime, she now has her 3 portions of protein for the day.

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