What are Legumes?

September 28, 2023
4 mins

If you want to improve your health, adding more legumes to your diet can be hugely helpful.

Legumes are an affordable and accessible superfood with incredible health benefits.

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What is a Legume?

Part of the Fabaceae family, a legume is a pod, seed, or other edible part of a leguminous plant,

There are more than 20,000 different species of legumes, with tons of variety among them.

The edible seeds in legumes are known as pulses, peas, beans, or lentils. Kidney beans and navy beans are examples of pulses.

Are Beans and Legumes the Same?

The word legume refers to the entire plant, including the pods, stems, and leaves. Beans, on the other hand, are the seeds of a legume. So while all beans are technically legumes, not all legumes are beans. Peas, lentils, and peanuts fall under the legume category but are not beans.=

What are the Different Types of Legumes?

As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of different types of legumes commonly consumed worldwide. Here is a list of the most common varieties:

  • Black beans are very commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Black beans are a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and folate.

  • Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are incredibly versatile legumes. They are commonly used in salads, and ground up to make hummus. Chickpeas are high in fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, and selenium.

  • Black-eyed peas are traditionally used as a side dish in Southern-style cooking. These legumes contain iron, vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, and folate.

  • Pinto beans are often found in traditional Mexican and Southwestern cooking. Pinto beans are renowned for their fiber content and contain potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and iron.

  • Soybeans are frequently used to create tofu, soy milk, and tempeh. These beans are popular amongst vegans and vegetarians, due to their high protein concentration. Soybeans are also a great source of fiber, vitamin K, folate, calcium, manganese, and iron.

  • Green peas are a popular side dish due to their low calorie content and high nutritional value. Green peas are an excellent source of vitamin C. They also contain tons of fiber, potassium, protein, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

  • Peanuts are often mischaracterized as nuts, but they are technically legumes because they grow underground. Peanuts can be eaten as a snack, ground into butter, or used as a cooking oil. They are an excellent source of protein, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6.

Are Legumes Healthy?

Often referred to as superfoods, legumes are extremely healthy.

A standard serving is half of a cup. The average person should be eating at least four to five servings a week.

Here are a few of the potential health benefits of eating legumes.

Cardiovascular care 

Eating legumes can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and swelling, which are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

A key component of the Paleo Diet, they are also an excellent substitute for red meat. They provide many of the same nutritional benefits but contain almost no saturated fat.

Providing essential nutrients

As mentioned earlier, legumes contain a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. They are also an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates, macronutrients for proper bodily function.

In addition to these macronutrients, they are also very high in fiber, B vitamins, folate, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus.

Regulating blood sugar levels

This food ranks low on the glycemic index and is efficient at helping to support healthy blood sugar levels. The high-fiber carbohydrates in legumes help reduce blood glucose levels, lowering the risk of diseases like diabetes.

In fact, following the Mediterranean diet, which is abundant in chickpeas, may dramatically reduce the odds of developing diabetes.

Enriching vegan and vegetarian diets

While red meat is an excellent source of protein, it has some serious downsides. Eating red meat can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and different types of cancer. Many people have opted for vegan and vegetarian diets for these reasons. Vegans and vegetarians often rely on legumes such as soy, chickpeas, and peanuts to get their daily protein intake.

Are There Any Downsides to Eating Legumes?

There are plenty of health benefits that come from eating this superfood. Before you stock up on legumes, you might want to be aware of their potential side effects.

For starters, they are notorious for their effects on your digestion. The sudden increase in fiber can bring about several side effects in your stomach. It’s not uncommon for people to experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming more legumes than usual. Typically, these side effects will balance out as your body adjusts to getting more fiber, but it might take a while.

Additionally, some legumes can trigger eczema. Each case of eczema is different, so you might not experience any problems.

Lastly, some of the compounds found in legumes can bind to essential minerals and prevent your body from properly absorbing them.

It’s pretty rare to experience a proper nutrient deficiency because your diet includes legumes, however, it’s something to keep in mind if you start experiencing the symptoms of nutritional deficiencies.

How Rex MD Can Help

Legumes are a highly nutritious food with a wide range of health benefits to offer.

Eating legumes can improve your general and sexual health.

To reduce any uncomfortable side effects, you’ll want to slowly integrate legumes into your diet. Eventually, your stomach will get used to the increased fiber, and you’ll be able to consume even more of your favorite legumes.

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