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Pulse Your Way to Lower LDL

25 Apr

Pulse Your Way to Lower LDL

A new study out in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that eating 1 serving of pulses each day can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 5%.

Good news for bad cholesterol…but what’s a pulse?

A pulse is simply a legume, including dried peas and beans such as:

  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Navy beans
  • Lentils

A one-half cup serving of pulses can have between 5-9 grams of fiber, depending on the legume.

You can always soak and prepare your own pulses at home – but most people find that canned options are more convenient for eating these high fiber, protein-packed pulses.

If you’re worried about sodium intake in canned foods, try rinsing your canned beans under a running faucet. This reduces sodium content by about 30%.

And if you REALLY like pulses, then get geared up for 2016. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses…an opportunity to “give pulses the attention they deserve.”

Peanuts: A Food to Take to Heart

15 Feb

Peanuts: A Food to Take to Heart

February is American Heart Month. And what better time to focus on a heart-healthy food that doesn’t always get a lot of press: peanuts.

A Harvard study published last year found that people who ate a handful of nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than those who did not eat nuts.

While peanuts are not technically nuts (they’re legumes), peanuts were recommended by the study findings, and they are recognized by the American Heart Association as being a heart-healthy food.

Nut Nutrition

A serving of peanuts is one-ounce, which is a small handful, or about 40 peanuts (or 2T peanut butter) and 160 calories:

  • Peanuts have more protein per ounce (7g) than any other nuts
  • They contain over 30 essential vitamins and nutrients
  • 12 of the 14 g total fat in peanuts come from heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids
  • 40 peanuts contains 2.5 g dietary fiber, or 10% of your daily value for fiber.

I love pairing peanuts in sauces with noodles and tofu for a satiating blend of carbohydrate, fat, protein, and fiber. Here’s a great Peanut Noodles with Tofu recipe from Sunset Magazine.

For more peanut recipes, check out the National Peanut Board’s Recipe page. To learn more about peanut nutrition, see my National Peanut Board Heart-to-Heart blog post from this week here.


Dried Chickpeas 3 Ways

15 Apr

Dried Chickpeas 3 Ways

Nutritionists love chickpeas – also called garbanzo beans – for their high fiber and even higher protein content.

But the form in which most people purchase chickpeas, canned, leaves you with less-than-desirable levels of sodium.

So how do you get the goodness of chickpeas without the salt? Try out the dried out version.

I recently picked up a pound of dried Bartolini umbrian chickpeas from the iconic Molinari Deli located in the heart of San Francisco’s Italian North Beach neighborhood. These beans are smaller, more delicate versions of what you find canned, but their flavor is intense, and slightly nutty.

Dried chickpeas are legumes, and as such, nutrition powerhouses. A 1/4 cup dry chickpeas serving (cooks up to 1/2 cup) provides:

  • 160 calories
  • 3 g fat
  • 23 g carbohydrate
  • 7 g dietary fiber
  • 10 g protein

And all of that for just 5 mg sodium! Compare that to canned garbanzo beans which can have upwards of 500 m per 1/2 cup serving.

So with your dried chickpeas on board, what do you do with them?

Here are three ways I recently cooked dried chickpeas – all of which yielded fantastic results as far as texture and taste go. For each cooking method, I did rinse and soak the chickpeas in water overnight for at least 8 hours prior to cooking.

Baked Dried Chickpeas

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • Add 2 cups of dried chickpeas and 6 cups of water in a Dutch oven
  • Bake for 1.5 hours

Slow Cooker Dried Chickpeas

  • Add 2 cups of dried chickpeas and 6 cups of water in slow cooker
  • Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 3-4 hours

Pressure Cooker Dried Chickpeas

  • Add 2 cups of dried chickpeas and 6 cups of water in pressure cooker
  • Bring to high heat/pressure and cook for 15 minutes
  • Allow pressure to come down naturally, about 10 minutes, open and taste

No matter how you like your dried chickpeas cooked, there’s no denying that these are an outstanding alternative to canned beans.

And what to do with those chickpeas once they’re cooked? A future post will tell!

Putting the Pressure On

18 Feb

Putting the Pressure On

Stop being scared of the pressure cooker!

That was one of my New Year’s resolutions this year, and at just over the halfway point of February, I can say it’s the one I’m glad I stuck with!

Having lived in Nepal at a time when it wasn’t unusual for Maoist insurgents to deploy pressure cooker bombs, I must defend my fear of this kitchen device as being somewhat based in reality!

But today’s pressure cookers are a far cry from their less-reliable, and more explodable predecessors. If you don’t have someone purposely rigging them to explode, you need not fear the pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers work by increasing the boiling point of liquid. Inside the tightly sealed pot, the boiling point goes from 212 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The superhot steam causes food to cook faster. What tastes like it took a full day to boil, is yours in a matter of minutes.

These instruments are great for cooking some of your favorite high-fiber foods, most notably legumes, steel cut oats, and beets.

Here are a few tips for quick cooking dried beans from The Veggie Queen, Registered Dietitian Jill Nussinow and author of the website

  • For presoaked beans, cover beans with water in a bowl and let sit for 8-12 hours, drain and then cook
  • Presoaked pinto, black, white or kidney beans take 4-6 minutes to cook at pressure
  • Garbanzo beans take 12-14 minutes to cook at pressure
  • A good ratio is 3/4 cup water for every 1 cup presoaked dry beans

For some great pressure cooker recipes, check out Jill’s book “The New Fast Food – The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes“.

To learn about selecting the best pressure cooker for you, view the Cook’s Illustrated video on pressure cookers.

This Month: Focus on Fiber

2 Jan

This Month: Focus on Fiber

Looking for a New Year’s resolution you can stick with as much as it sticks with you?

Well luck for you – January is National Fiber Focus Month.

Why all the fuss about fiber? On top of its heart health, blood sugar and cancer fighting benefits – fiber helps you stay full, or satiated. Full people are less hungry – and less hunger means you’ll eat less unnecessary calories that lead to or sustain unwanted weight gain.

The best ways to bulk up with fiber? Stay away from fake fiber foods – those traditionally low-fiber foods that have had plant fibers (isolated fibers) added into them (think high fiber ice cream bars and yogurt).

Instead, look for naturally occurring types of fiber – also called intact fiber,  that you can find in:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes like lentils and dried peas and beans

If you’re not sure how much fiber you need each day, check out this Fiber Calculator from the National Fiber Council – and get your year started off on a satiated foot!