I feel you – what exactly are legumes again? The legume family includes chickpeas, red kidney beans, black beans, lentils and butter beans to name a few, and are a magic bullet of good nutrition.
They get a bit of a bad rap (I’m talking to you gassy baked beans) which can be off putting, but the truth is legumes are rich in nutrients and delicious! So let’s get straight to it and discuss why legumes should be a pantry staple.
Plant Based Protein
The importance of including many plant based foods in our diet is well documented, and legumes are a great place to start. They are a fantastic source of plant based protein, so can be used as a substitute for meat, chicken and fish. It is important to note that you certainly do not have to switch to an all vegetarian or vegan diet to enjoy legumes. Start by switching up a couple of meals a week and see what you think – you may surprise yourself!
Full of Fibre
And not just one type! Legumes contain all three important forms of fibre: both insoluble and soluble fibre, as well as resistant starch. Insoluble fibre is the type which helps facilitate regular bowel movements. Soluble fibre is great for heart health, as it helps to lower cholesterol levels. Finally, resistant starch fuels the good bacteria in the gut.
Now of course, some people find that eating legumes triggers uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, flatulence and cramping. This is usually thanks to the presence of certain fermentable sugars known as FODMAPs. Eliminating legumes from your diet for a period of time can help relieve symptoms, and then you can try reintroducing them into your diet. This is best done with the help of a dietitian to guide you through the elimination and reintroduction phases (visit daa.asn.au to find a dietitian close to you). Good news is that ½ cup of canned brown lentils is considered to be low in fermentable sugars, and therefore less likely to induce uncomfortable symptoms.
Eliminating legumes from your diet for a period of time can help relieve symptoms, and then you can try reintroducing them into your diet.
Legumes provide a good source of slow releasing carbohydrate. They are low GI (glycaemic index) which means they will keep you feeling full and help prevent the 3.30pm energy slump. The high fibre content means legumes take a while to digest, which also helps with satiety throughout a busy work day.
Affordable & Easily Transportable
Both canned and dried legumes are very economical for your food budget. They are also easy to transport and keep on hand. For example, you can keep small tins of four bean mix in your desk drawer to add to your salad at work. Give the canned varieties a quick rinse beforehand, to significantly cut the salt content. Win!
Meet Your Veggie Quota
The word legume is French for vegetable (thank you to my best friend for recently sharing this fun fact). Very fitting as legumes are actually part of your five veggie serves a day. Considering very few of us eat the recommended serves of veg a day, any help we can get here is welcome!
So (hopefully) by now I have convinced you that a legume boost may be worth considering, however the thought of digging into a can is less than appetizing. Thankfully, there are many delicious and creative ways to include legumes into your diet without compromising on taste! Just imagine chickpea falafels with tzatziki, creamy hummus, spicy lentil curry or a warming dhal. That should help get the taste buds on board! Perhaps even more surprising (and exciting), legumes are now making their way into amazing desserts! Example: black bean brownies. Trust me, don’t knock it until you try it!