The World of Legumes

I am often asked about legumes. Some of those questions are ‘what are legumes?’ ‘How to cook them?’ ‘Isn’t it time consuming to prepare?’ To which I always reply, there are various types of legumes that can be included in our daily meals and they are not all as time consuming as believed to be. I often include legumes in meals I prepare and they are quite easy to cook and are inexpensive.

What are legumes and how are they used?

Legumes include all types of beans, peas and pulses (dried seeds of legumes). Most of them are available canned or dried. Some common examples of legumes are:

  • Chickpeas used in salads, soups and casseroles

  • Peas

  • green frozen or canned used in stir fries or salads

  • split peas (yellow) used in dhal and curries

  • Lentils

  • red lentils used in soups and dhal and curries

  • brown or green lentils used in shepherd’s pie or in casseroles

  • french (puy) lentils used in salads

  • Beans such as

  • borlotti used in soups, stews, and cold bean salads

  • cannelloni beans used in salads

  • lima beans used in casseroles, dips, soups and salads

  • mung beans used as pizza and salad toppings, in soups and curries

  • Red kidney beans used in rice, salads, stews, homemade burgers patties, gravies and curries

Preparing Legumes

Canned legumes do not require soaking. They are ready for cooking but have to be thoroughly rinsed. They however, contain added sodium as they are processed prior to canning.

Not all dried legumes require soaking overnight. Lentils and split peas do not require overnight soaking. For example, rinse 1-cup of lentils, bring it to a boil in 3 cups of water, and then simmer for approximately 30-45 minute. This can be used to make soups, dhal or curry. This can also be done for chickpeas and kidney beans with an increase in time to about 45-60 minutes and 55-70 minutes respectively.

When soaking is required, cooking in bulk and freezing will be useful for preparing quick meals at a later date. Cooked legumes should be drained, rinsed and cooled before packing into separate zip lock bags and freezing.

Why we should include legumes in our meals

The health benefits of consuming a plant-based diet inclusive o

f legumes is linked to a significantly lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes

Legumes are naturally low in fat and are an excellent source of proteins (especially for vegetarians), fibre, B-vitamins (particularly folate) and minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. They are also a good source of antioxidants. The health benefits of eating legumes include, lowering cholesterol, having healthy bowels, being a low glycaemic index food, which gives a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time making it beneficial in managing diabetes

If you have not been adding legumes to your meals, I hope this article brings about a change. Adding legumes to your lunches, dinners and snacks are great ways to try for 5 (5 serves of vegetables including legumes). A standard serve of legumes is ½ a cup cooked. Can you think of ways you can include them in your meals?