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A legume is defined as a seed, pod, or other edible parts of a leguminous plant used as food. More simply, legumes are plant proteins that include beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils. These plant foods are not only for vegetarians and can be included as part of a healthy diet.

Legumes are highly nutritious. They contain fibre which helps to keep our bowel regular and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Legumes have a low glycaemic index (GI) which means that they are broken down slowly and keep us full for longer. They are naturally low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Legumes are a good source of antioxidants and vitamins such as folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They are also a fantastic source of protein and can be used as the basis for vegetarian meals or as a substitute for meat.

Examples of legumes include:

  • split peas
  • black eyed peas
  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • baked beans (navy beans)
  • soybeans
  • fava beans
  • edamame beans
  • chickpeas
  • four bean mix
  • and red, green or brown lentils

We have been brought up with the thinking that dinner must include meat, chicken or fish, but in fact, legumes are a fantastic, and healthy, alternative to meat and animal proteins, being lower in fat and higher in fibre. Legumes are also relatively inexpensive, so adding meat-free meals to your weekly menu can help you to save on grocery bills too!

Legumes can be used as the basis for soups, stews, salads and rice dishes. Edamame beans can be served as a snack. Enjoy a hearty soup made with roasted vegetables and split peas. Chickpea curry is quick and easy to make. Try delicious Indian dhall made from lentils. Add chickpeas to salads and stews. The possibilities are endless, and so are the benefits!