Blog - Health

How to incorporate more legumes into your diet


“Legume” typically refers to pulses, which are the edible seeds of leguminous plants. Beans, chickpeas. lentils, peas, and soybeans are the most common varieties of pulses. Other well-known legumes that are not considered pulses include fresh alfalfa, carob, clover, lupins, mesquite, peanuts, and tamarind.

Legumes are typically low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, are high in folate, potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, and are an excellent source of protein!

Fresh beans are seasonal and can be cooked up in 10-45 minutes (depending on the type).

With the exception of lentils and dried green or yellow peas, which do not require soaking and are fast-cooking, many dried beans are best soaked overnight or pressure-cooked. Using a pressure cooker speeds up the time considerably.

I do not recommend putting UNCOOKED beans in a slow cooker, since some beans, such as kidney beans, can make you sick if they are not thoroughly cooked.

Canned beans are pre-cooked and ready to eat. You can rinse them to reduce sodium if you like, but the water in the can is edible, full of nutrients, and helps thicken the soups or stews that you are making.

The water from chickpeas, aquafaba, is often used as an egg replacer in cooking and baking.

What to do with them

Beans are surprisingly easy to incorporate into many meals and snacks, and even desserts!

Keep a few cans of low or no sodium beans and a few small bags of dried beans in the pantry. If you have the chance to buy fresh beans from your local farmers’ market or grocery store, they’re worth a try!

You can also buy them frozen. I always have edamame (in and out of the shells) in my freezer for a quick and easy side or snack.

Incorporate legumes into your diet in a variety of tasty ways

  • Don’t rule out legumes for breakfast. Add refried or black beans to your tofu rancheros. Or add a side of baked beans to your brunch!
  • Add them to soups and stews.
  • Add a serving of blackbeans, lentils or chickpea of the sea as a protein to your salads!
  • Bake them in tomato sauce and sprinkle with your favourite garnish, or vegan cheese.
  • Mix them with sauteed veggies and cooked rice and stuff them into other vegetables, like Stuffed bell peppers!
  • For a quick lunch or dinner try black bean quesadillas, burritos or enchilladas on whole grain tortillas.
  • Toss beans into pasta dishes for a protein and fiber boost.
  • Edamame in Poke bowls are 10/10!
  • Try making a lentil salad using either dried or pre-cooked lentils. For an easy lentil salad add diced red onion and veggies like baby carrots, peppers or celery, feta cheese, and a combination of red wine vinegar and olive oil.
  • Try a chickpea burger or black bean burger! Make extra and freeze them for another day, while you’re at it.
  • Black Bean Salad is one of my favourite ways to get in some protein in the summer, when it’s too hot to cook. It’s great with a side of tortilla chips.
  • Throw leftover legumes in a wrap with some of your favourite veg and pickles.
  • Make chili and cornbread!
  • Hummus or bean dip is a great protein packed snack that you can buy pre-made or make from scratch. You can use traditional chickpeas, or substitute any other bean, and experiment with seasonings, greens (such as arugula), other veggies and even beets! for more flavor and color.
  • Try roasting small beans like chickpeas or edamame for snacks.

Some of the more common legumes and their typical uses:

  • Adzuki beans (Mung beans) – great in soups, used for sweet bean paste, and often used in Japanese and Chinese dishes
  • Anasazi Beans (Aztec Beans, Cave Beans) – Popular uses include casseroles, soups, and stews
  • Appaloosa Beans – Refried beans, salads, and soups
  • Beluga Lentils (Black Lentils, Indianhead) – salads, stuffing for vegetables
  • Black beans (Turtle beans) – Most often found in soups, chilis, feijoada (Brazilian stew), frijoles negros (Latin American black beans), burritos, enchiladas, dips, and eaten with rice!
  • Black Calypso Beans (Orca Beans, Yin Yang Bean) – used for casseroles, salads, soups, stews
  • Black-eyed peas (also known as cowpeas) – Great in salads, makes tasty fritters and used most often in Southern dishes
  • Bolita Beans – Soups and stews
  • Brown Lentils – burgers, casseroles, lentil-based loafs, soups, stews
  • Cannellini Beans (White Kidney Beans, Italian Kidney Beans, Fasolia, Haricot Blanc) – minestrone soup (Italian), pasta e fagioli
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans, Kabuli Chickpeas) – chana masala (Indian stew), falafel, hummus, mnazaleh (Moroccan stew), salads, minestrone soup, and a lot of Spanish and Indian dishes
  • Edamame – make a great snack, are delicious in salads and perfect in Poke bowls
  • Fava beans (also known as Broad beans or Horse beans) – Falafel, Ful Medames (Egyptian stew), puree, salads
  • Flageolets (Fayot)
  • French Lentils – salads, light soups, side dishes
  • Great Northern Beans – Salads and soups
  • Green Lentils – salads, soups, stews, stuffed vegetables
  • Green Peas (Green Matar) – soups, spreads, stews
  • Kidney Beans (Chili Beans, Rajma) – Most often used for chili, red beans and rice (Louisiana Monday Creole dish), brenebon (Indonesian soup)
  • Lentils – used in soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes like currys and dhal.
  • Lima Beans (Butter Beans, Madagascar Beans, Wax Beans) –  salads, soups, stews
  • Mung Beans (Green Gram, Moong) – Popular uses include khicharee (Indian rice and beans), mung noodles, mung paste (for breads and desserts), soups, salads (in a sprouted form), and egg replacements!
  • Navy Beans (Boston Beans, Small White Beans, White Pea Beans, Yankee Beans) – Boston baked beans, Senate bean soup (served every day in the American Senate), soups, stews
  • Pigeon Peas (Congo Pea, Red Gram, Toor) – Arroz con Gandules (Caribbean rice and peas)
  • Pinto Beans – Frijoles Refritos (Mexican refried beans), Frijoles Charros (Mexican stew), Sopa Tarasca (Mexican soup)
  • Red lentils – soups, stews, red pepper lentil sauce
  • Soy nuts – often eaten as snacks and in salads
  • Split Chickpeas (Yellow Gram, Kala Chana Dal, Bengal Gram Dal) – dal (Indian stew), chickpea flour (besan)
  • Yellow Peas (Yellow Matar) – soups, stews

Bubbles and Squeaks

Beans and other legumes can lead to the formation of intestinal gas. Here are several ways to reduce the flatulence-inducing quality of legumes:

  • Soak dried beans (not lentils) overnight before cooking them
  • Cook beans thoroughly before eating
  • Introduce them into your diet slowly so as to give your digestive system a chance to adjust to the increas in dietary fibre.
  • Cook beans with a bit of dried seaweed (kombu kelp recommended here). It neutralizes their hard-to-digest carbs.
  • Go for a walk after meals 🙂
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