Beans and pulses

Beans and pulses in your diet

Pulses include beans, lentils and peas. They’re a cheap, low-fat source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and count towards your recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables.

A pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod. Pulses include all beans, peas and lentils, such as:

  • baked beans
  • red, green, yellow and brown lentils
  • chickpeas (chana or garbanzo beans)
  • garden peas
  • black-eyed peas
  • runner beans
  • broad beans (fava beans)
  • kidney beans, butter beans (Lima beans), haricots, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, pinto beans and borlotti beans

Why eat pulses?

Pulses are a great source of protein. This means they can be particularly important for people who don’t get protein by eating meat, fish or dairy products.

Pulses can also be a healthy choice for meat-eaters. You can add pulses to soups, casseroles and meat sauces to add extra texture and flavour. This means you can use less meat, which makes the dish lower in fat and cheaper.

Pulses are a good source of iron.

Pulses are also a starchy food and add fibre to your meal. Eating a diet high in fibre is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Pulses are often bought in tins. If you buy tinned pulses, check the label and try to choose ones that have no added salt or sugar.

Pulses and 5 A Day

It’s recommended we get at least 5 daily portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables, and pulses count towards your 5 A Day. One portion is 80g, which is equivalent to around 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked pulses. But if you eat more than 3 heaped tablespoons of beans and pulses in a day, this still only counts as 1 portion of your 5 A Day. This is because while pulses contain fibre, they don’t give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables. This excludes green beans, such as broad beans and runner beans, which are counted as a vegetable and not a bean or pulse for 5 A Day.

Learn more about 5 A Day

Don’t let flatulence put you off pulses

Baked beans are renowned for their effect on the bowels. This is because beans contain undigestible carbohydrates. Soaking and rinsing dry beans before cooking, as well as rinsing canned beans in water, can help to reduce these hard to digest carbohydrates. You shouldn’t let a bit of wind put you off eating pulses. People react differently to certain foods and may find that symptoms subside, especially if you increase your intake gradually.

Information on this page came from the NHS website.