The Med approach series started with eat-less-often foods at the tip of the pyramid ( By October the series had reached the pyramid’s foundation: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans/lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices - Base every meal on these foods

One may ask…whatever is a pulse? Perhaps legume is a more familiar term. Here’s the difference: A legume is any plant that grows in a pod, such as soybeans, peanuts, fresh peas, dry beans, etc. However, the term pulse refers only to the dry seed produced in the legume pod ( Thus, all pulses are a legume, but not all legumes are a pulse.

Common pulse varieties are chickpeas (garbanzo beans), dry beans (black, kidney, navy, pinto, etc.), lentils (red, green), and dry peas (green, red, yellow). Pulses can be purchased dry, frozen, and canned. They are equally nutritious. In addition, pulses can be found in prepared foods, such as frozen vegetable mixes, canned soups and burritos.

Pulses’ strengths: rich source of plant protein, fiber, potassium, iron and beneficial phytochemicals, all while being low in fat and cost. They are also environmentally friendly, enriching the soil and reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizers.

The USDA’s serving size is 1/2 cup cooked. The Dietary Guidelines’ Healthy Med-Style Eating Pattern recommends 1.5 cups over a week. The rule-of-thumb: 1/2 cup dry equals 1 cup cooked. 

For many cooks, canned beans are super convenient. The sodium content can be reduced about 40% by draining and rinsing under tap water. Lower sodium canned beans are available.

For even more convenience, consider pre-made foods such as lentil, black bean or split pea soups, hummus, bean dip and vegetarian chili. Check out dry beans soup mixes that include dehydrated veggies and a recipe, such as those packaged by the Women’s Bean Project.

An excellent resource for how to cook dry pulses and how to store once prepared, check out For how to cook in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker:

Soups are always cold weather favorites. This recipe, from the Bean Institute, is meal-worthy. Interestingly, it was created by Chef Ann Cooper, the “renegade lunch lady” who served 11 years as Director of Food Services for Boulder Valley School District. 

Kale and White Bean Soup 

1-1/2 c. onion, diced 

1-1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 

½ tsp. garlic, minced 

2-1/2 c. cooked Great Northern or navy beans 

4 c. vegetable stock 

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped 

1 tsp. kosher salt 

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 

2 c. carrots, medium diced 

7 c. kale, chopped 

¾ c. parmesan cheese, grated 

  1. Sauté onions in oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add cooked beans, stock, salt, pepper, bay leaf and rosemary. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add carrots and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Add kale and cook about 12 minutes or until kale is tender. Add more vegetable stock if soup needs more liquid.
  5. Check seasonings, adjust as needed and serve sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.

Yield: 8 1-cup servings

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically-managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.