Health Benefits of Legumes

three bean chili - Oct 16 14
three bean chili

What Are Legumes

First of all, what are legumes?  Legumes (also known as ‘pulses’) come from plants whose seed pods split on two sides when they’re ripe. So kidney beans, pinto beans, black (turtle) beans, chickpeas, lentils and even green peas and the yellow or green peas used for pea soup are all legumes. Soybeans (of which tofu is made) and good ‘ol “baked beans” are also in the legume family.

Nutritional Benefits

Legumes are high in insoluble fibre which helps keep our bowels regular. Legumes are also a good source of soluble fibre which can help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels and are a good source of carbohydrate as well as protein, which makes them an affordable way to meet protein needs.  They also have a low Glycemic Index (GI), which means they are broken down slowly so you feel fuller for longer and they don’t cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, which makes them particularly good food for preventing and managing diabetes.

Complete Protein

In an exchange diet, 1 cup of legumes counts as a serving of carbs and a serving of protein. A dish made with legumes and served with a grain group makes a complete protein; that is, all the essential amino acids (ones our body can’t make) present in animal protein are present in a meal made up of legumes and grain.  So chickpea curry on rice, or hummus and pita, dal and roti, or chili and tortillas all make up a meal with complete protein. Meals like this provide “meat without bones”.


Legumes are inexpensive to buy, so including them as the main protein in meals with a side of grain can save lots of money on the grocery bills. No wonder cultures around the globe rely on legumes as a source of protein. Other benefits of legumes include:

  • High in B-group vitamins, phosphorous, and zinc
  • Good source of folate, which is essential for women of child-bearing age
  • Good source of antioxidants and phytonutrients
  • Low in saturated fat


Legumes are often promoted as being high in iron and calcium, however they also contain compounds in their basic structure that makes the iron and calcium unavailable to be used by the body. If you have a tendency to iron-deficient anemia, learning to time when to eat foods rich in iron and legumes is important.

“Beans , Beans Good for Your Heart…”

Most of us have heard the rhyme, but can anything be done to reduce this undesirable side effect.  Yes. Since legumes can be purchased dry (which need to be soaked before cooking) or canned, rinsing them well before cooking can eliminate most if not all of the gas-producing substances. When using the canned variety, rinse them in a colander with cool water before using.  This will remove most of the gas-producing substances as well as excess sodium (salt).  Discarding the soaking water of the dried variety before cooking virtually eliminates any gas!

Want to Learn More?

Learning to use legumes and timing when to eat them to maximize the absorption of key nutrients like iron and calcium isn’t difficult.  If you are vegetarian or simply want to eat healthier using non-animal based protein, legumes are a good group to know.  Why not click on the “Contact Us” tab above and send us a note.

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