Legumes are any plants (as well as their fruits or seeds) that are part of the Fabacaeae or Leguminosae plant family. Legumes (also known as pulses) are a group of plant foods that also have substantial amounts of protein, therefore making them a worthy replacement for meat and or animal products in vegetarian or vegan diets. Studies have also shown that incorporating legumes into at least four meals per week can help in promoting heart health and weight loss.
There are so many different types of legumes which can help to keep recipes, fresh exciting and healthy.
Examples of legumes include:
- Beans (for example soy beans, butter beans, navy beans, red kidney beans etc)
8 Reasons to Love Legumes:
- Legumes are an economical source of protein.
Protein is a vey important macronutrient which is needed by our bodies to build muscle, repair wounds, fight infection and produce hormones and enzymes. Most people are aware that protein can be found in animal products like meat, dairy products and eggs. With most of the world’s population feeling the pinch of the economical recession, it may prove to be expensive to include meat in most meals. This is where legumes come to the rescue! Legumes are a good source of protein and are generally much cheaper than most types of meat, especially when purchased in their dried form. Legumes can be used to replace either half or an entire meat portion in a meal. Just remember that not all legumes are complete sources of protein and it could be prudent to consult with a dietician to ensure that you are incorporating them in a healthy way. In addition, dried or tinned legumes do not need to be stored in a fridge before being cooked.
- Legumes are low in fat and cholesterol, thus making them a critical component of a heart healthy diet.
- Legumes are also high in fibre. This helps with controlling blood sugar levels, helps to reduce cholesterol and is important in keeping a healthy gut. An adequate intake of fibre is also important in preventing colon cancer.
- Legumes are also a source of carbohydrates which means that they give us energy to tackle every day activities. Due to their high fibre content, legumes have a low GI (Glycaemic Index) which means that they help to promote a slow release of sugar into the blood and keep us feeling fuller for longer (very helpful when we are trying to lose weight!)
- Legumes are fantastic sources of anti-oxidants and can therefore play an important role in promoting skin and heart health as well as supporting our immune system and preventing illness. Ant-oxidants also play an important role in preventing cancer.
- Legumes are excellent sources of B-Vitamins. These are important in aiding the body use energy effectively.
- They are also a plant source of iron which makes them an essential component of a vegetarian diet (remember that plant iron is not always easily taken up and used by the body – consult your dietician for tips on promoting iron absorption).
- Legumes contain abundant amounts of folate which are essential in woman of a child-bearing age to prevent birth defects in pregnancy.