- Legumes include all forms of beans and peas from the Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) family.
- Legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins.
- Legumes are not a ‘complete protein’, as they have relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine, however they are rich in lysine. Methionine is found in high amounts within grains, however grains contain low quantities of lysine. To achieve a complete protein source, vegetarians combine legumes with grains! For example, dhal with rice, tofu and rice, beans and tortillas, or even baked beans on toast!
- Legumes are usually low in fat, and virtually free of saturated fats. Soybeans and peanuts are the exception, with high levels of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Rich in carbohydrates to help with energy levels, and has a Low GI rating to optimise blood glucose control.
- They are an excellent source of B-group vitamins (especially folate), iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
- Legumes are naturally low in sodium. TIP: you can reduce the salt content of canned legumes by 41% by draining and rinsing before cooking/consumption.
- They are a super rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibres, as well as resistant starch for colonic health benefits.
- They contain a bunch of phytonutrients (e.g. isoflavones, lignans, protease inhibitors).
- They are also gluten free, so they are suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Research has shown that legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and soy foods help manage both cholesterol and blood glucose, are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and there is emerging evidence that indicates legumes may help in weight management.