What are legumes?

Legumes, foods such as beans and lentils which are excellent source of fat, protein and carbohydrates. We have numerous species of legume plants but beans are the most common variety. Legumes are also an important source of fiber, protein, and minerals as potassium, magnesium, and zinc, which are essential for healthy living. They are full of nutrients, low in fat, high in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Benefits of legumes

The inexpensive legumes family, which include beans, peas, peanuts and lentils, have priceless benefits.

  • Legumes are rich in folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and antioxidants.
  • Their high protein and complex carbohydrates provide steady energy that lasts for hours.
  • They are especially high in fiber and helps to lower blood cholesterol by as much as 18 percent, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
  • Legumes are low in fat and the main source of protein for people who don’t eat meat.
  • Most legumes also contain protease inhibitors, compounds that suppress cancer cells and slow tumour growth.
  • There are the prebiotics in beans, substances that aid in beneficial bacteria growth in the intestine
  • The great news is that legumes have a low glycaemic index (GI) and are absorbed slowly over a long period of time. Therefore they will not produce high blood glucose levels unless you eat too many.
  • Eating 4 – 5 serves of legumes a week improves our health. A serve, for example, is considered to be 1 cup of cooked beans or peas.
  • They slow the absorption of blood sugar from your small intestine, which is great news for people with diabetes
  • They Can Help You Lose Weight: Because of their great fiber content they tend to fill you faster than foods like meat, so you don’t eat as much and consequently weight is lost.

Flatulence can be a problem

Some people avoid legumes especially beans due to the intestinal gas or bloating they may produce.

Beans are not digested in the small intestine. They pass on to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria and form carbondioxide, hydrogen and sometimes methane. This means some people may get flatulence after eating beans.


If this is a problem do the following:

  • Gradually increase the amount of beans you eat over several weeks, you can overcome that concern.
  • Soak beans for 8 to 12 hours before cooking replacing the water every few hours. Or quick-soak by putting the beans in water and boiling for one minute; then turn off the heat and let the beans stand in the same water for one hour. Throw away the water that they’re actually soaked in.
  • Cook legumes with low heat to help cook faster and reduce the gas-forming compounds.
  • Canned beans are also good to buy. Just be sure to give them a good rinse under running water before you add them to a dish.

Note: Since legumes have high amounts of fiber, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water to avoid constipation as you increase them in your diet. And if you’re worried about legumes being considered a second class protein, combine them with rice or other cereals and you’ve got yourself a complete protein for a lot less money.