Legumes don’t get the same type of praise that other, more “trendy” vegetables get. While they may not be flashy, legumes offer so much more nutritional bang for their buck than other members of the pea family.
If you’ve never explored this diverse, expansive category, you’re in for a real treat. We’ll take a look at just a few of the 20,000 types of legumes and discover what their benefits are and how you can incorporate them into your healthy diet.
What Is a Legume?
The name “legume” may not sound familiar to you, but you’ve likely had more of them than you know. Technically, a legume is classified as any member of the Fabaceae family, including its pods, leaves, and stems.
In that large category, there is also the subcategory of “pulses,” which are the edible seeds of a legume. Peas, beans, and lentils are all considered pulses. A good example is a sugar snap pea — the entire pea pod is a legume, but the pea inside it is a pulse.
Are Legumes Good for You?
Where the different types of leagues shine is their nutritional content. With so many members of the family, each has its specific strengths and weaknesses. However, overall, they are so nutrient-dense that they have earned their place on the United States Dietary Guidelines.
They even received a specific acknowledgment from the United Nations for their contribution to ending malnutrition and hunger worldwide.
Legumes are an excellent source of protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. That means they can help your bowels stay healthy, as can our Gut Prep Digestive Enzymes, can help aid with weight loss, stabilize your blood sugar, and boost your heart health.
Legumes are also a great, plant-based substitute for other protein options, helping vegans and vegetarians meet their dietary needs without using animal proteins. The nutrient content of legumes means they qualify as either a fiber or a protein when you are considering macronutrients.
Some studies have shown that legumes may help you live longer, although this has only been researched in certain ethnicities.
Type of Legumes
It would be impossible to go into detail about every member of the legume family; it’s just too large. Instead, we wanted to focus more on some of the more well-known and beneficial types of legumes. They are not only healthy, but they are also accessible and easily found at most grocery or health food stores.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the main ingredient in hummus and a regular part of many Indian food dishes, like chana masala.
Just a single cup of the legume contains an impressive 45 grams of carbohydrates, 14.5 grams of protein, and 12.5 grams of fiber, in addition to an abundance of vitamins and minerals.
Although they seem like they would be in a different category, peanuts also belong to the legume family. Although they have more calories than many other legumes, they are an excellent healthy snack full of protein, manganese, which helps with metabolism and bone formation, niacin, and magnesium.
Kidney beans are one of the main components of many fall chili recipes, and for a good reason! These low-fat, red legumes have nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates in a single cup, as well as 16 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber.
They also have a third of the daily recommended amount of folate, or vitamin B9, and more than a quarter of the iron you need to stay healthy.
Peas are lower in calories than many other legumes, but they are just as nutritious. Although they don’t contain as many carbohydrates, as much protein, or as much fiber as some others, they are full of vitamin K, manganese, and vitamin C.
They are also excellent to snack on all by themselves! Peas are also incredibly easy to add into nearly any dish, as they don’t have a strong flavor on their own.
Of all of the legumes on our list, black beans are possibly the most well-rounded. One of the best things about black beans is that you can use them in all different recipes — both the healthy and the less than healthy.
No matter how you use them, black beans are absolutely chock full of carbohydrates, with 40 grams in a cup, fiber, with 15 grams, and protein, with 15 grams.
If that wasn’t enough, a cup of black beans has over 60% of the daily recommendation for folate and plenty of other micronutrients include potassium, iron, and zinc. This legume has also been linked to lower cholesterol levels, although those studies have yet to extend to humans.
As many legumes are also beans, people often worry about the potential side effects, namely gas. While that can happen, adding any foods with high fiber contents into the diet slowly can nearly always help stop that from happening.
If you have a low-fiber diet currently, start increasing your fiber content by five grams a week. If you still notice gas, some over-the-counter products can help. Don’t let it scare you away from doing something that can help reduce certain health risks and keep you feeling full for longer.
Although there are thousands of different types of legumes, adding even a few of them into your diet can give you the support you need to reach your optimal health. Legumes are usually high in carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber, which can help you lose weight, gain muscle, and even fight off multiple health concerns.
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