Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Pulses, lycopene, and the black bean salsa that ties them all together!

Salsa ingredients on a cutting board

With fibre from black beans and lycopene from tomatoes, this black bean salsa is easy to make and packs a nutritional punch!

Have you ever tried black bean salsa? Don’t be scared away! It’s just like normal salsa, but it has black beans in it! It’s a deliciously sneaky way to add more fibre, protein and pulses to your diet!

You may have read a lot from my fellow dietitians about pulses during Foodie Fridays this year. Why’s that? Because the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses! The goal is to increase awareness of the nutritional benefits and how pulses are an important part of a sustainable food system. Learn more from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

What is a “pulse” anyway? Are they good for you?

Pulses are a family of plants including:

  • Dried peas (think split pea soup)
  • Dry beans (think pork and beans – like the ones you take camping)
  • Lentils (small disc shapes you might see in soups or stews)
  • Chickpeas (think hummus)

Things you may know:

  • Pulses are high in fibre! This helps with regularity, keeping you feeling full longer. Many Canadians are not getting the recommended amounts of fibre in each day. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 38 g/day of total fibre for men and 25 g/day of total fibre for women.
  • Pulses are a good source of protein! This makes them a great plant-based alternative to meat or animal products.

Things you may not know:

  • Pulses have a low glycemic index, meaning that they are digested and absorbed slowly in the body and help to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
  • Pulses can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the body because they contain soluble fibre.
  • Pulses use half the non-renewable energy inputs of other crops and have a low carbon footprint! Pulse Canada has more information about pulses and sustainability.

Information above based off of Pulse Canada.

Tomatoes and lycopene

Let’s also talk tomatoes. Garden tomatoes in season taste fantastic (like they should taste), but store-bought ones out of season often taste and look bland. The key to any recipe is fresh ingredients! In the winter and spring, I prefer to use canned tomato products because they are harvested and preserved at the peak of ripeness. Also, did you know that the heating process involved in canning tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene in tomatoes by about 7 times?

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is strongly linked to preventing cancer! Lycopene is particularly well known for the protective effects it has against prostate cancer. Tomatoes are by far the winner when it comes to lycopene content of food so consider canned tomato products a nutritious option.

Information above based off of the Canadian Nutrient Files.

Bowl of salsa

Black bean salsa is a great way to sneak some pulses into your menu!

Black Bean Salsa

Recipe sourced from: Dietitians of Canada Cookbook, Simply Great Food, by Patricia Chuey, Eileen Campbell and Mary Sue Waisman.

Makes enough to feed a crowd.

Salsa recipe ideas:

  • Serve this salsa with lettuce and veggies, avocado, chopped cooked chicken, and corn for a simple Mexican salad.
  • Top your favourite burrito or taco filling with this salsa for a high fibre punch.
  • Add salsa to scrambled or poached eggs and serve on toast for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Spoon salsa over white fish or chicken before baking in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced (if in season) or 750 mL can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced (optional)
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro (optional if you aren’t a cilantro fan)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Juice of 2 limes

Instructions

  1. Chop tomatoes, if using, or empty canned tomatoes into a large bowl. You can drain the extra juice if you like your salsa more chunky than wet.
  2. Mince onion, jalapeno and cilantro and add to the tomatoes.
  3. Rinse black beans and add to the salsa.
  4. Add olive oil, salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir well to combine.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Enjoy!
Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!

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Foodie Friday: Show your love this Valentine’s Day … with a pulse!

Brownies on a plate with pear and milk.

Add a little pulse to your diet this year! Toss chickpeas into a salad, add lentils to your soup, or try pureeing black beans into your new favourite brownie recipe!

The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse!

What is a pulse you ask?

A pulse is the edible seed of a plant in the legume family. The most common pulses are dried peas, beans, lentils and chick peas. Why should you eat them this Valentine’s Day (and on a regular basis)? Because they’re good for you! Now you are probably thinking that dietitians say that all the time, right?

Well, it’s true! They are good for you and you should also eat them because they taste great, they’re inexpensive, easy to use and they are jam-packed with fibre, protein and iron, among other lesser-known nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and phosphorous.

The big deal about fibre these days (in this world of ultra-processed foods) is that most Canadians aren’t eating enough of it! Pulses have two types of fibre – the one that promotes healthy digestion and regularity and the other type that helps to lower cholesterol levels and keep blood sugars in check. All of this in a measly, little old bean!

Here are a few ideas that might help you to put a little pulse into your diet:

  • Toss chickpeas into a salad of greens and grains for a quick standalone meal.
  • Add lentils to your soup or casserole to amp up the protein.
  • Mash up some navy beans to use a dip for veggies for a fun snack.
  • Puree black beans or kidney beans into your favorite cake or brownie for a low fat, high fibre alternative.

For more recipes and ideas visit Pulse Canada.

Looking for an idea for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day? Try my recipe for Beany Brownies that will be sure to capture their hearts with its gentle sweetness and rich chocolate taste and, of course, the added pulse!

Beany Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • 2/3 cup flour (I use a combination of whole wheat, whole grain and white flours)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • ½ cup of your favorite fat (canola oil or melted butter, margarine, or coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ square baking pan.
  2. Puree the black beans with 2 tbsp of water.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar.
  5. Mix the vanilla and black beans into the egg mixture.
  6. Add your fat.
  7. Mix in the dry ingredients until blended.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Foodie Friday: Winter baking

Rural driveway lined with snow and frost

Warm baking tastes that much better on frosty winter days and cold nights! When you are baking, keep an eye out for sugar and fat content. Healthy baking options high in fibre and low in added sugar do exist! (Photo by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

The winter weather has officially landed and with it, I find myself wanting to do more baking. On these cold wintery nights, there is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a warm baked good right out of the oven.

Unfortunately, many baked goods can be high in sugar and fat and low in fibre, which is why I make an effort to seek out healthier recipes for baked goods that are still as delicious as the originals!

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and makes a great snack or dessert option. It can also be part of a quick breakfast when paired with something like fruit and yogurt to create a balanced meal! These bars are high in fibre and low in added sugar, but what’s even better is that they come together in less than 30 minutes including prep and cook time!

Chocolate PB Chip Oat Bars (from the Real Life RD)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sugar (original recipe calls for coconut palm sugar)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup milk (original recipe calls for almond milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips or peanut butter chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line an 8” x 8” baking pan with greased parchment paper.
  3. Process your oats into a flour using a blender or food processor.
  4. Add your oat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl. Add the mashed banana, milk, and vanilla and gently stir until almost completely mixed. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread onto baking pan.
  5. Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set and cooked through.
  6. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment paper. Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares.
Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!

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