So the other day I fielded a question asking what types of plant based proteins that I enjoy. One of my top choices, legumes! These little gems are jam packed with nutrients and have a fantastic balance of protein, carbs and fiber.
The American Diabetes Association recommends legumes as one of the most important food groups for disease prevention and optimal health as legumes aid in blood sugar regulation more than almost any other food group, a key quality for diabetics and those concerned with maintaining stable blood sugars. So if that doesn’t get you pumped up enough, lets take a closer look at why these are a favorite of mine and why you want to start incorporating them into your daily diet!
What Are They:
So what is a legume? Legumes are low glycemic and consist of plants that produce a pod with seeds inside, seeds that pack a powerful nutritional punch! As we look around at all the fast food joints that seem to be popping up on every street corner, it’s really no secret that most Americans depend far too much on processed foods, and far too little on whole foods to fuel their bodies. A diet that emphasizes nutrient dense foods or those that deliver a wide range of nutrients for relatively few calories, does more than provide energy it nourishes your body and supports good health. Legumes are a perfect example of this. Not only that, legumes are also complex carbohydrates which are slowly digested and absorbed. The slow release of glucose and energy from legumes is beneficial in regulating blood glucose levels
Legumes Nutritional Profile:
Legumes have quite a fantastic nutrition profile, and are a rich source of healthy fibers and protein.
For example, one cup of cooked lentils provides:
- 18 grams of protein.
- 16 grams of fiber.
- 40 grams of carbs.
- 37% of the RDA for iron.
- 90% of the RDA for folate.
- 18% of the RDA for magnesium.
- 21% of the RDA for potassium.
- Over 10% of the RDA for Vitamins B1, B3, B5 and B6, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese.
This is why legumes are among the best plant-based sources of dietary protein. Not only are they highly nutritious, they are also extremely cheap. Something that definitely resonates with me!
Types And List Of Legumes:
You can find legumes is just about every supermarket and there is a wide variety, either dry or canned.
The most common types of legumes include:
|Type of legume||Common uses|
|Adzuki beans, also known as field peas or red beans||Soups, sweet bean paste, and Japanese and Chinese dishes|
|Anasazi beans||Soups and Southwestern dishes; can be used in recipes that call for pinto beans|
|Black beans, also known as turtle beans||Soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisines|
|Black-eyed peas, also known as cowpeas||Salads, casseroles, fritters and Southern dishes|
|Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo or ceci beans||Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, and Spanish and Indian dishes|
|Edamame, also known as green soybeans||Snacks, salads, casseroles and rice dishes|
|Fava beans, also known as broad beans||Stews and side dishes|
|Lentils||Soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes|
|Lima beans, also known as butter or Madagascar beans||Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads|
|Red kidney beans||Stews, salads, chili and rice dishes|
|Soy nuts, also known as roasted soybeans or soya beans||Snack or garnish for salads|
Prepping And Cooking Legumes:
So why should you soak before you cooking legumes?
Soaking shortens the cooking time and actually makes the beans more digestible. To soak, cover the washed beans with four times their volume of water (no salt yet), then choose one of these soaking techniques.
- Normal soak: Leave the beans to soak for at least 8-10 hours (larger beans need more time). This is the traditional and healthier method of soaking beans. (If you put them on to soak at night, they’ll be waiting for you whenever you’re ready the next day.)
- Quick soak: Bring the beans to a boil for one minute, cover, and let sit for one hour.
It’s important to always soak legumes because they contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides. These eight glucose molecule chains are unable to be broken down in the small intestine like most other foods and are instead passed into the colon where they’re digested by bacteria which create intestinal gas as a byproduct. Soaking the legumes in water allows enzymes in the beans to break down the oligosaccharides into smaller sugars so they can be digested in the small intestine, resulting in less intestinal gas.
With the many different kinds of legumes available, you should have no trouble adding these delicious and healthy vegetables to your meals on a regular basis. Get to know some different legumes and start adding some protein and iron into your diet.
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