Who says superfoods have to be exotic fruits and leaves from far-away countries? We know of some that are probably already in your pantry: Pulses. These are seeds that grow within pods, such as chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas, and they're loaded with protein, complex carbs, iron, magnesium, and other nutrients to keep you feeling satisfied and energized.
Pulses are "incredibly versatile," says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor and author of Slim Down Now ($19, amazon.com) . "Plus they're affordable, readily available, gluten free, plant-based, nutrient-rich and rarely trigger allergies."
Wondering how much of your favorite pulse to eat? One serving is 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cup cooked. Read on for delicious recipes that make delicious use of these little nutrition powerhouses.
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Moroccan Turnip and Chickpea Braise
Quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner but flavorful enough for company, this colorful vegetarian dish has plenty of protein and fiber to keep you satisfied. Serve it over whole-wheat couscous or brown rice and toss a quick salad to round out the meal. "Scientists have published an amazing amount of research on pulses, " says Sass, "including their ability to promote weight loss, reduce belly fat and fight heart disease, diabetes and cancer."
Blend chickpeas with another protein-rich plant-based superfood, quinoa, in a food processor with a few spices, and voilayou have delicious, healthy, crowd-pleasing burgers. With 14 grams protein, you definitely won't miss the meat. Serve these patties with avocado, tomato, and your other favorite burger toppings. Be sure to rinse and drain the quinoa before cooking. Note: If you don't care for cilantro, swap in the same amount of fresh parsley.
Ingredients: White quinoa, vegetable broth, whole-wheat bread, chickpeas, eggs, cilantro, cumin, red chile, black pepper, vegetable oil, whole-wheat pitas
Fire up the grill and put this super-nutritious gourmet meal on the table in minutes. Chickpeas combined with simple ingredients like garlic, celery, parsley, and olive oil to create a refreshing salad that's a perfect accompaniment to quick-cooking sea scallops. Along with being easy to prepare and super-tasty, this dish boosts brain and heart health, since it's rich in vitamin B-12 and omega-3s. Chickpeas are also a good source of iron and potassium.
Double up on pulse goodness with this salad, great for dinner or to bring to a potluck. This salad boasts 15 grams of fiber per servingmore than half your daily doseplus 7 milligrams of iron and about 10% of your day's calcium. With onion, garlic, and a splash of zesty pomegranate molasses, it also brings the flavor. Buying dried pulses, like lentils and split peas? Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, like your pantry.
Ingredients: Olive oil, yellow onions, garlic, Swiss chard, petite green lentils, chickpeas, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt, pepper
Enjoy a bowl of pasta knowing you're getting tons of good nutrition with this hearty dish. This veggie-rich bowl is loaded with iron, thank to the lentils and the addition of meaty, nutty-tasting porcini mushrooms. The sauce freezes well, so make an extra batch and freeze in single-serve containers for fast weeknight meals. Serve it with your favorite whole-grain pasta; it works with any shape, short or long. All you need is a salad or steamed broccoli and dinner's ready.
Ingredients: Porcini mushrooms, onion, garlic, carrot, leek, celery, olive oil, black pepper, lentils, thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaf, red wine, almond milk, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, whole-grain pasta, grated Parmesan
If you like hummus or other bean dips, you'll love this superfood spread, which combines lentils with nutty sunflower seeds. Blend these two with celery, onion, parsley and a splash of lemon juice, and serve with whole-grain pitas or your favorite cut-up vegetables. Or spread some on flat bread, top with chopped lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers and shredded carrots and roll up into a satisfying wrap. If you like a touch of heat, blend in a few shakes of hot sauce.
Enliven a classic bowl of lentil soup with a good dose of chopped fresh ginger and a dash of piquant curry. This protein- and fiber-rich soup comes together in less than 30 minutes, but it's even better the next day, when the flavors have had a chance to develop. So make it on a Sunday and bring it to work for lunch for a few days during the week with a salad on the side. Use fire-roasted tomatoes for an additional flavor boost.
Bring this luscious, sinful-tasting dish to a barbecue and watch it disappear. Plenty of spices (smoked and regular paprika), immune-boosting garlic and just a bit of dry Spanish chorizo elevate humble great northern beans to something special. Swap bacon for the chorizo, if you prefer. Shop for dried beans in the bulk section of your supermarket or health-food store.
Ingredients: Beans, Spanish chorizo, onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, cumin, paprika, bay leaves, brown sugar, tomato paste, molasses, red pepper, black pepper, green onions, parsley
Enjoy these bacon-studded beans as a side dish, or pair them with brown rice and a salad for a simple, satisfying dinner. Cooking the beans with broth instead of plain water adds extra flavor. Another flavor boost: Add some salt to the water when you soak the beans. Prefer to go without the bacon? Simply chop up a few extra cloves of garlic and add that instead. Top the dish with chopped cilantro or parsley just before serving to give it color and a shot of freshness.
Ingredients: Black beans, chicken broth, black pepper, salt, bacon, celery, onion, carrot, thyme, cumin, garlic
It's time to dust off that pressure cooker and put it to good use for this dish, perfect to take along on an outdoor picnic or serve to guests for lunch. Smoked trout, available in supermarkets, adds a salty touch and works beautifully with the warm, creamy beans. Another great reason to enjoy great northern beans: Just a cup has nearly 20 percent of your day's potassium, and lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Ingredients: White beans, pancetta or bacon, garlic, carrot, rosemary, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, trout, parsley