Across many different healthy eating plans — on bookshelves and in every corner of the internet — legumes are approved as a go-to food. Besides being inexpensive and widely available, legumes are a nutrient-packed powerhouse that can help add more plant-powered goodness into your everyday meals.
Read on to get a quick introduction to the benefits of legumes, and how to incorporate them into your diet.
WHAT ARE LEGUMES
A legume is defined as an edible plant with pods that divide into two halves, with seeds inside. Generally speaking, the most often consumed part of the legume is the seed, though the pod may also be edible, depending on the maturity of the plant. Mature legumes, like kidney beans or lentils, are eaten after the seed is fully dry and hard. Immature legumes, like fresh peas or green beans, are eaten while the seeds are still soft. Legumes of both types are easily found at most grocery stores, whether fresh or frozen, dried or canned.
Some additional examples of legumes are:
- Soybeans (edamame)
- Snap peas, snow peas, etc.
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Yellow peas
- Black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, etc.
WHY EAT LEGUMES
Legumes can be an excellent part of any balanced diet, due in part to their many health and dietary benefits. Depending on the varieties you eat, legumes can add a wide swath of necessary antioxidants, vitamins and minerals — such as folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc — and complex carbohydrates. Legumes have the highest amount of fiber out of any food group, which can help you feel fuller for longer periods of time and has a number of digestive benefits.
Certain varieties of legumes also contain a significant amount of protein, which makes them an excellent choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone looking to minimize their dependence on animal protein. This protein, usually derived from peas, can also be isolated and added to packaged foods, and is sometimes sold as a vegan protein powder or supplement. Be sure to take a look at the label, however. If the pea protein is listed as a “protein extract,” that indicates it’s been separated from the fiber content of the legume, which means you could be missing out on additional benefits. (That’s why we always use the whole legume — skin and all — in our yellow pea ZENB Pasta.)
WAYS TO EAT LEGUMES
Now that you’ve had a primer on how these small but mighty superfoods could benefit you, the only thing left to do is enjoy them! The versatility and availability of legumes make it easy to prepare them however you’d like and in a variety of recipes.
Need some ideas? Here are some of our favorite ways to get more legumes into everyday meals:
What’s your favorite way to enjoy legumes? Let us know on our social media channels.