By now you may have heard how healthy legumes are but you may still be wondering what are legumes exactly? In short legumes are the seeds that grow inside pods. Some examples of legumes would be alfalfa, clover, peas, lupins, peanuts, beans, chickpeas and of course lentils. The origins of the word legume comes from the Latin word legumen and have been part of a staple diet in Asian, European and American cuisine. In fact Legumes are seen to be a part of a healthy diet across all cultures.
What are the common types of legumes?
There are around 600 types of legumes, 13,000 varieties and countless number of recipes. Because of their health values, legumes should be a staple in every pantry. Here are the most common types of legumes.
- Beans – Beans come in a wide variety. Commonly used examples are kidney beans, soy beans and lima beans. They are known to lower cholesterol. Because they are easily obtainable, they are included in most vegetarian diets as a meat substitute and primary source of protein.
- Lentils – High in fiber, low in fat, a good source of protein and many other nutrients. They also absorb flavors well so they can be added to stews, soups and salads. They can be made available the whole year round. When uncooked they can be stored for 12 months. They are another staple for vegetarian and vegan diets and make a great meat alternative.
- Peas – Peas are one of the most common legumes and have been used by humans for centuries. They are even mentioned in the Bible. Originally found in Asia and Europe they are of course readily available everywhere in the world. Peas are rich in vitamins K, C and B1. They are also high in fiber manganese and folate. They are very versatile, as they can be included in many recipes and can even be eaten straight out of the pod.
Why should I eat legumes?
Legumes are very healthy. They are a good source of phosphorus, iron, folate, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and soluble and insoluble fiber. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, legumes are a great source of protein and simple meat substitute. They have a high protein content and are rich in amino acids. In addition to that, legumes are good sources of carbohydrates, they are very low in fat, and they have no cholesterol. These nutritional facts make legumes a very good addition to a healthy diet. They make meals filling and satisfying and are mostly inexpensive.
What are the health benefits of legumes?
Legumes are rich in nutrients and have been found to help prevent heart disease, known to reduce the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease because they have no cholesterol content and have rich anti-oxidants that lower the risks of cancer. Adding legumes into your diet lowers obesity and other chronic illnesses. They also promote good digestion because they are rich in dietary fibers and are known as staples in maintaining or restoring good health.
How do I include legumes in my daily diet?
There are many ways that you can include legumes in your diet. They can be a good addition to your favorite recipes and an excellent replacement to unhealthy habits. Here are some ways that you can add legumes to enrich your daily meals.
- Soups – Add beans and other legumes to your soups. They will add depth to the flavor, as well as a lot of proteins, fibers and other nutrients.
- Main course – You can use beans and other legumes as an extender or a replacement for meat. Like meat they are a good source of protein.
- Salads – You can add beans to your salads to make them more filling and satisfying.
- Snacks – Instead of snacking on chips or cookies, you can have a handful of nuts and peas. They are excellent source of carbohydrates that will provide you with energy throughout the day.
- Dips and spreads – Pureed beans are a good base for richer dips and spreads.
The key to increasing legumes in your diet is variation. One reason why most people give up on healthy eating is because they contain themselves to very few choices. Healthy food to can seem boring and unappetizing when you think there isn’t much to choose from. The good thing about adding legumes to your healthy diet is that they come in red, green, brown, violet and other color varieties that make a dish more colorful and palatable. It is best to prepare legumes as with other healthy foods in different ways, and mix it up daily. And with hundreds of legume recipes it’s easy to get variety in your diet.
Canned or dried legumes?
There are various ways that you can get legumes. The most common varieties are canned and dried. The advantage of canned legumes is that they are readily available and you will not need to pre-cook them. This is also great for people with busy lifestyles or on the go. When using canned legumes, be sure to check the labels. Some canned products have high salt content, but there are ‘low salt’ or ‘no salt’ varieties available.
Dried legumes can be available in a wider variety and are usually inexpensive. They take more time to prepare because dried legumes need to be soaked and cooked prior to using. To save time they can be prepared ahead of time and stored, ready to be consumed.
However prepared or consumed, whatever variety one prefers, whether starting a healthy diet regimen or recuperating from an illness, legumes provide excellent options for a healthy diet for the young and old.