We all know the key constituents of healthy eating. It's a phrase which is practically etched into our junk food-loving brains: "Make sure you eat lots of veggies, whole grains, fruits, lean protein and legumes."
LEG-yumes. Le-GUMES. Whichever way you pronounce it, there are some folks out there still wondering WTF legumes are.
So, here's an explainer.
"In simple terms, legumes are plants that bear seeds, pods or other edible parts inside their shell," nutritionist Steph Lowe, aka The Natural Nutritionist, told The Huffington Post Australia. "There are thousands of different legume varieties, each with its own distinct characteristics.
"How each legume grows varies on the plant family. For example, green beans grow from a plant above the ground on green vines, producing oblong pods that are moist and also edible. Whereas peanuts grow dry, brittle pods underground that surround the seeds, with inedible pods."
Okay, okay... but what's the difference between legumes and beans? And where do those elusive pulses come into play?
"Beans are simply a variety or subcategory of the legume family. The term 'pulse', on the other hand, refers only to the dried seed part of the vegetable. Common examples include dried peas, chickpeas and lentils," Lowe said.
Essentially, the term 'legumes' includes the dry seeds (pulses) as well as fresh peas, alfalfa sprouts and green beans. Hopefully you're still with us, friends.
Examples of legumes:
- Split peas
- Cannellini beans
- Kidney beans
- Baked beans (navy beans)
- Four bean mix
- Red, green or brown lentils
Now, there's a few reasons why we should include these funny foods in our diet. Namely, they're naturally high in fibre which helps keep our gut healthy and boost our digestion. Another major benefit of legumes is they are dirt cheap.
Being high in fibre and protein also means that eating legumes helps us to feel full for longer, so we're less inclined to reach for other less healthy snacks.
"Legumes are a great source of protein, especially for non-meat eaters. They provide an abundance of fibre to keep our bowels healthy and also contain B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium," Lowe told HuffPost Australia.
"All these health benefits support blood sugar balance and allow us to feel fuller with our meals."
The main reservation people have with legumes is best explained by this rhyme: Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot.
But if you prepare them properly (and providing you don't have any intolerances), legumes can be a fluff-free experience. Yes, really. The key is to rinse, people. Rinse.
The next time you open a tin, place the legumes in a colander and rinse them under tap water until there are no more bubbles present.
If the legumes are in dried form, "soaking your legumes for up to eight hours prior to cooking improves the digestibility and also decreases the cooking time". You're welcome.
If you're now convinced that legumes are the greatest thing ever, here are some ways to eat them:
- Get creative and add legumes to vegetable soup
- Use them as a great base in vegetable burger patties
- Make homemade hummus and enjoy with vegetable sticks for the perfect snack
- Add them to stir fry and curry dishes
- Substitute legumes for meat in many dishes -- try using using beans in tacos or 'meat' balls
- Make desserts like black bean brownies, blondies, meringue, truffles and raw cookie dough
- Make falafels and serve with hummus
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA