What is a pulse anyway? They are part of the legume family.
It includes all these little morsels of deliciousness:
• Dried beans (Borlotti beans, Black Turtle beans, Kidney Beans, Great Northern beans, Cannellini beans, Adzuki beans, Lima beans, Black eyed beans etc.)
• Dried peas (Green split peas, Yellow split peas etc.)
• Lentils (Brown lentils, Red lentils, Green lentils, Puy lentils)
So what is so good about them and why am I shining a spotlight on them?
Well I am very fond of them, not only do they taste delicious but they do ooze health being low in fat, high in fibre and protein. Furthermore, they contain high amounts of minerals including phosphorus, zinc, iron and B vitamins just to name a few. Eating pulses can reduce your risk of Cancer, Osteoporosis, Diabetes and Heart disease which is always a good thing!
So what about the hormonal benefits? Well pulses are known to contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are found in plant based foods and they are natural oestrogen like substances. Therefore eating pulses will assist with maintaining normal healthy oestrogen levels too. In Menopause this is a good thing as often there is a decline in oestrogen leading to symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, depression etc. (Although keep in mind that oestrogen is not the only hormone responsible for these symptoms). The benefits do extend beyond Menopause so it is still beneficial to eat these if you are still menstruating ladies.
Phytoestrogens are a tamer and less potent version of the actual oestrogens that our bodies produce. So ordinarily oestrogen produced by our bodies comes along and binds to a receptor situated on our cells. So if you could imagine two pieces of a puzzle and how one piece perfectly slots into the other piece and connects. Once the connection is made, oestrogen can then do its job in the body.
It is thought that if you have low oestrogen levels, phytoestrogens ‘the hero’ comes along and connects to those receptors reserved for oestrogen (just like two pieces of the puzzle connecting) and pretends to be oestrogen.
Ok, that is great but what about if you have oestrogen dominance (Excess oestrogen) with comparison to progesterone? This can be a result of your body producing too much oestrogen for some particular reason or you have excessive environmental oestrogens (Xeno-oestrogens) accumulating in the body.
Well in this instance, it is still a good idea to consume legumes because phytoestrogens will have priority to bind with the receptor over other excessive oestrogens. Taking the spot and connecting with the other piece of the puzzle, which means that only mild oestrogenic activity will occur. Not the strong and robust action of excessive oestrogen produced by the body or as a result of environmental toxins acting as oestrogen (Xeno-oestrogens) or the oestrogen imposters if you will!
So what is the verdict? A healthy balanced diet including some of these legumes is a really good idea for all women throughout their life.
If you are going to use pulses make sure that you soak them overnight before use. If you are pressed for time or unprepared you can use the canned version but I would recommend buying the BPA free ones if possible (usually available at the health food store). However, remember that the dried ones that you soak always take preference over the tinned ones.
So what is your favourite pulse? Mine is a close call between chickpeas and kidney beans.