At Kashi, we’re really excited about plant-based proteins. Its ability to fuel an active lifestyle is just one of the reasons to love this multi-source complete protein. We’ve worked plant-based proteins into some of our new foods, and we can’t wait for you to give them a try! Read more below about plant power in the form of pulses and soy.
By Christopher P.F. Marinangeli PhD, RD
Director, Nutrition, Science and Regulatory Affairs at Pulse Canada
When we think about dietary sources of protein; beef, chicken, fish and dairy are often the first foods that come to mind. However, there are many plant-based sources of protein that contribute to a healthy diet. Legumes are seeds that grow and develop inside of a pod and are among the best sources of plant-based proteins. Both soybeans and pulses are legumes. While most people are familiar with soybeans, the term “pulses” can be somewhat of a mystery. Pulses are a category of legumes that, when harvested, contain very little moisture; and include dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas (Table 1).1 Another important distinction between pulses and other legumes is pulses contain little to no oil. Hence, soybeans are not considered pulses because they are often harvested as a source of cooking oil. Simply put, all pulses are legumes, but not all legumes are pulses.
Table 1. Examples of pulse food
(split or whole)
Cowpeas and Black eyed peas
Faba or Fava beans
Lupin (or Lupini) beans
Both soybeans and pulses contain substantial levels of protein. On average, ½ cup cooked soybeans contains 12 g of protein.2 Similarly, ½ cup cooked pulses contain 6-18 g of protein.3 Occasionally, protein in food is characterized as “complete” or “incomplete.” Complete sources of protein are foods that contain all of the essential amino acids in proportions that are required by the body. Conversely, “incomplete proteins” are proteins that have lower levels of one or more essential amino acids.4 Soybeans are considered a complete protein,4 while pulses, at times, can have lower levels of one or more essential amino acids. However, characterizing foods as “incomplete proteins” can falsely disregard healthful foods (such as pulses) that can make substantial contributions to meeting daily requirements for protein and other nutrients.
While soybeans on their own can be characterized as a complete protein, pulses that are consumed with other foods, such as whole grains, can be complementary; and, when combined, imbalances in amino acids can decrease. In fact, dietary guidance from around the world, including Canada,5 US,6 Australia,7 Spain,8 Nordic Countries,9 India10 and the United Kingdom,11 include pulses and soy-based foods as contributors to a healthy diet. After all, vegetarians are able to meet their daily protein requirements from a variety of plant-based protein sources. In fact, concentrated pulse proteins, specifically from peas, have been shown to facilitate an increase in muscle thickness with exercise; and demonstrates that pulse-based proteins can effectively be utilized by the body.12
Both soy and pulses are nutritious (Table 2). In addition to protein, pulses and soy are sources of fibre, iron, folate, zinc, and magnesium. While cooked soybeans can contain higher levels of healthy unsaturated fats, whole cooked pulses can contain higher levels of dietary fibre and carbohydrates. That being said, soy-based ingredients such as flours, where the dietary fat has been removed, are available. An array of dry and canned pulses are readily available in Canadian supermarkets, and given that pulses encompass peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, there is flexibility in catering to the needs of varying recipes and palates.
|per 100 g
Legumes in general, which include pulses and soy, are great sources of plant-based protein. While some experimentation in the kitchen might be required to start including more pulses and soy into diets; beverages, flours and protein concentrates are available. Furthermore, pulses are increasingly being incorporated into more foods on grocery shelves. Although pulses and soy may differ somewhat in their protein composition, don’t look at one as better than the other. Pulses and soy are both great foods that can be used as part of a healthy diet.