Pulses and beans are the seeds from the Fabaceae plant family and are among the most versatile and nutritious foods on earth. Their health and athletic benefits are wide-ranging and scientifically proven
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
Pulses and general health
As a group, pulses are high in protein, fibre, protein and vitamins and there’s plenty of science to show they improve many health markers. A quick Google presents stacks of results, such as:
- Department of Medicine in Nashville “observed an inverse association between quintiles of total legume intake and 3 mutually exclusive legume groups and type 2 diabetes”
- Ohio State University, Columbus found that “consuming chickpeas and/or hummus may help prevent or offset the development and progression of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes”
- University Hospital in Reus, Spain, showed that “frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk”.
Include pulses in your diet. They'll make you a better athlete
Look at the overall picture and you’ll see pulses have been shown to:
- Lower cholesterol
- Stabilise blood sugar
- Contribute to the prevention of bowel disease
- Regulate bowel movements
- Help prevent Type 2 diabetes
- Promote a health gut biome
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
Pulses vs meat – the protein debate
Protein is crucial for endurance athletes but many think pulses lack the quantity and quality of protein that meat offers.
I hear you: “Beans are not complete proteins”. A complete protein contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential ones we must consume in our diet.
The thing is, you don’t need to consume the complete amino acid profile with every meal. If you’re eating a varied diet with a range of pulses throughout the week, your body will have what it needs.
And let’s not forget, many pulses are protein rich. Compared to 100g of chicken breast which contains 24g protein, you’ll get:
- 36g protein per 100g soybeans
- 24g protein per 100g kidney beans
- 19g protein per 100g chickpeas
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Athletic benefits to pulses
As previously discussed, athletes need to consume a nutrient rich diet to perform at their best. This means foods which pack in more goodness per calorie than high-calorie alternatives with few nutrients.
Pulses are nutrient dense and great for athletes because they are:
- A natural protein / carbohydrate combo. You need both to perform, recover and maintain health. Get it all in one mouthful
- A good source of protein. As discussed above!
- Low-GI. They’re slower to digest and leave you feeling fuller for longer
- Laden with vitamins and minerals. It’s not all about carbs, fats and protein. Vitamins and minerals keep the whole body running smooth
But pulses are boring
Sure, I get it. Beans and pulses seem boring in comparison to a juicy, meaty steak. And the prospect of spicing them up in the kitchen can seem like hard work. But don't tell me this bowl looks boring...
Pulses are tasty, versatile and easy to cook
But like anything, it takes a period of adjustment and experimentation to find your sweet spot. Pulses are hugely versatile and, with all the benefits mentioned above, why not have a go at making a pulse-based meal just once per week to begin?
Start by just swapping in beans and pulses to a casserole, soup or pasta dish and go from there.
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