While legumes have long been a staple of Asian and South American cuisine, in North America we have been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Yet legumes are economical, loaded with health benefits and worth getting to know better.
There are over 13,000 species in the legume family, including lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts, to name a few.
Legumes Come in Different Forms!
Choose legumes that are dry, intact and uniform in size. Avoid any that are dull-coloured or wrinkled, or that have holes in them.
Choose your canned legumes carefully. Stay away from cans that are dented or cracked, or whose tops have swollen.
Legumes are chock full of nutrients, so why not include them more in your cooking!
High in protein
Legumes fall under the Meat and Alternatives group in Canada’s Food Guide due to their high protein content. One 125 ml (1/2 cup) serving of cooked legumes contains as much protein as 50 to 100 g of meat.
High in fibre
Legumes are an excellent source of fibre. In fact a single serving of legumes practically meets your daily recommended intake.
- Legumes quickly make you feel full, and can therefore help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Legumes boost good cholesterol (HDL), which can help prevent heart disease.
Source of vitamins and minerals
Legumes are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.
Low in fat
Legumes contain very little fat and, as mentioned above, are high in protein, making them a very valuable food to add to your diet.
Did You Know?
Some people have trouble digesting legumes and suffer flatulence as a result. To reduce such undesirable side effects, simply rinse the legumes in cold water and drain before use. If you are new to legumes, you are advised to introduce them gradually to your diet.
The nutritional value of canned and dried legumes is about the same. Canned legumes are not only quick and easy to use, they’re also great for you—so go ahead, give them a try!
Soaking: Dried legumes should by soaked for 6 to 8 hours. Soaking helps reduce cooking time, boost the moisture level in legumes and seal in their vitamins and minerals. It also helps diminish undesirable effects on the digestive system. It is important to use cold water to prevent legumes from fermenting.
Cooking: Place dried legumes in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until tender (approximately 2 hours).
Rinse. Drain. Serve. It’s as easy as that!
- Try mixing couscous with cranberries, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, green onions and grated carrots. Season with cinnamon and fresh parsley.
- Whip up a quick soup meal with frozen legumes, chicken stock, diced canned tomatoes, canned kidney beans and Parmesan.
- Prepare a sauce with kidney beans, onion, celery, wine, tomatoes and basil. Serve on a bed of pennine.
- Go Mexican with grilled chicken strips mixed with canned corn, Tabasco sauce, red onions, black beans and green pepper.
- Substitute half of the ground beef in your spaghetti sauce recipe with lentils. No one will be the wiser!
- Mash chickpeas and spread on ciabatta bread. Add grilled chicken, roast peppers and pesto.
- Roast soybeans for a tasty snack!
- Prepare a typical French cassoulet with Toulouse sausages, white beans, duck confit, ham, duck fat, cloves and thyme.