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Pulse Consumption In Canadian Adults Improves Nutrient Intakes

Despite the fact that Canada is the 2nd largest pulse producing country in the world after India, they found that only thirteen percent of Canadians consume pulses on any given day.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba recently analyzed data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) to determine the prevalence and effect of eating pulses (beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas) on nutrient intakes in Canadian adults. Despite the fact that Canada is the 2nd largest pulse producing country in the world after India, they found that only thirteen percent of Canadians consume pulses on any given day.

For the CCHS, a 24 hour dietary recall was collected from a total of 20,156 adults over the age of 19 years in 10 Canadian provinces. Data was also gathered on physical measurements, health conditions, socio-economic status and demographic characteristics including gender, cultural background, education level and income.

Pulse consumers were defined as respondents who ate pulses or a pulse containing product during the one day dietary intakes. Pulse consumers were further categorized into four groups based on their average level of consumption: 13 g/day, 47 g/day, 99 g/day and 294 g/day. On average, 11⁄2 cups of pulses would be about 300 g whereas 1⁄2 cup would be about 90 g. Of the 13% of Canadians who consumed dry beans, peas, lentils or chickpeas, Ontario and British Columbia had the highest proportion of pulse consumers as residents. For the various age categories, the highest consumption of pulses was seen in the 51-71 age bracket. In terms of cultural background, the highest consumption was seen in the Asian population with respondents being 3.6 times more likely to be pulse consumers than Caucasian respondents. The main sources of pulses in the adult Canadian diet were mung beans, Mexican or Hispanic mixed dishes, kidney beans, baked beans, bean soups and chili.

Consumers in the highest pulse consumption level category (average of 294 g of pulses per day) had 85% higher intakes of fibre than non-consumers. The group that ate an average 99 g of pulses per day also had higher fibre intakes (34%) compared to non-consumers. In addition to fibre, these two groups of pulse consumers had higher intakes of carbohydrate and protein than non-pulse consumers. A number of micronutrients were also elevated in the diets of pulse consumers including folate, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and zinc.

In addition to these beneficial nutrients, sodium intake was 31% higher for pulse consumers versus non-consumers which is likely due to consumption of processed or canned pulse products rather than the pulses themselves. It is of note, the nutritional data currently available for canned whole pulse products on the Canadian Nutrient File that was used for this analysis does not account for the reduction in sodium (about 40%) when they are rinsed and drained, therefore likely overstating the actual level of sodium intake.

Overall, consumption of pulses is associated with improved nutrient intakes, especially when consumption was at highest level (294 g/day). The nutrient intake that improved the most with pulse consumption was fibre, with participants in the groups eating 99 g or 294 g of pulses per day getting almost twice as much fibre in their diets as non-pulse consumers.

On March 15th, Pulse Canada hosted a webinar presentation on this topic which was recorded and is available for playback at The results of this study will be published in the British Journal of Nutrition later this year.