Pulses, a great source of proteins

Thanks to their pleasant flavour, children tend to love peas. However, beans, chickpeas, lentils and broad beans are also very important in children's diets due to their high protein content. What are their benefits and how should you introduce them into your child's diet?

Plenty of protein

All pulses share an important characteristic: they contain a similar amount of proteins to meat, although their nutritional quality is lower than proteins from animal sources (provided by eggs, meat, fish and dairy products), as they do not contain certain amino acids that the body needs. In any case, this is not a problem. In particular, pulses lack methionine and cysteine, substances that are found in cereal-based proteins. These, in turn, lack an essential amino acid, lysine, which is present in legumes. Consequently, all you have to do is combine pulses with cereals for them to complement each other, resulting in a highly nutritious mixture.

To ensure a perfect combination, half of the proteins should come from pulses and the other half from cereals. In practice, you can prepare a combination consisting of two thirds cereals and one third pulses, which are more or less the proportions recommended for preparing many dishes, such as pasta with chickpeas, beans, rice or peas.

A large family

The different types of pulses have certain basic nutritional features in common. However, their appearance, flavour and consistency vary. It is therefore worth stopping for a minute to take a look at what the most important types of pulses provide.

- Beans

There are many varieties, which are similar in terms of nutrients and calories. They also contain a substantial amount of iron. Some varieties are: haricot beans, pinto beans and kidney beans. Dry beans must be left to soak for at least 12 hours and cooked for 2-3 hours.

- Lentils

They are highly nutritious, contain different types of proteins (approximately 23 per cent) and are particularly rich in calcium and iron. They do not need to be soaked for as long as other pulses; 2-3 hours is enough.

- Chickpeas

They contain a certain amount of fat (5 per cent), which gives them a softer consistency. The proteins they contain are of a higher quality than that of beans. Dry chickpeas must be left to soak in cold water for 10-12 hours, changing the water once or twice. They need to be cooked for at least 3 hours.

- Broad beans

You should take care when introducing them into your child's diet, as many children cannot tolerate them and can even present serious blood disorders. The cause is a hereditary disease called “favism”. In any case, broad beans are excellent for making vegetable soups.