1 January 2006

Low GI Food of the Month

Pulses (Legumes) Help Fight Diabetes
By Rosie Schwartz
Using your bean is definitely one of the smartest nutritional moves you can make. In the battle against diabetes, pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils) appear to offer a wide range of weapons. Firstly, because of their effects on weight control, they provide a front line defence. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the major strategies in halting the epidemic of diabetes. Increasing body weights and sedentary living are partnering to drive up the odds of developing diabetes in all age groups.

Rosie Schwartz

Adding pulses to the menu may not only reduce the risk of diabetes due to their effects on girth control, but they also work against the disease in other ways. The type of fibre as well as the starch they contain leads to a slow rate of digestion and therefore more gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin readings, making them a boon for both diabetes prevention and blood sugar control in those who have the disease. While eating bean quotas may help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar readings without taking medication, research shows that for those with type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, consuming pulses may lessen the amount of insulin required to control blood sugar levels. This slow rise in blood sugar gives pulses the distinction of being a low GI food.

Yet even though many people are aware of the health perks of consuming pulses, they're not what you would call a regular visitor at the dinner table in most homes. Here are some tips for palate-pleasing pulses, keeping in mind that they partner wonderfully with seasonings from every cuisine and can be part of any course of any meal.

  • Pureed pulses, seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices, make for wonderful dips and spreads. Keep cans of chickpeas or beans on hand for a snack in a flash. Rinse and drain them and give them a whirl in the food processor with cumin, garlic, tahina (sesame seed paste) or olive oil and lemon juice for a speedy hummus or bean dip for vegetables.
  • Add pulses to pasta sauces for a change of pace. And for youngsters, or even adults who aren't yet fans of beans or lentils, puree a small amount with some of the sauce and then add the mixture back into the entire sauce. Over time, as tastes adjust, puree smaller quantities of the pulses, keeping them intact.
  • Add pulses to homemade or prepared vegetable soups before serving. Simmer for at least a few minutes.
  • Add white or red kidney beans or chickpeas to a mixed salad or toss with tuna, sliced red onion and tomatoes and an olive oil and vinegar dressing for a taste of the Mediterranean.
—Source: National Post (www.nationalpost.com). Reproduced with permission of the author and the National Post.


Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian in private practice and is author of The Enlightened Eater's Whole Foods Guide: Harvest the Power of Phyto Foods (Viking Canada).