Legumes are primarily from the Fabaceae/Leguminosae family of known plants. More commonly called beans, or peas, they can be any plant that bears its seed inside a pod; beans are considered a legume, but not all legumes are considered beans. (www.bodyscape.biz/blog) Legumes are plants that bear fruit that grows in a pod, while beans are the seed from different varieties of plants, although typically the whole plant is referred to as beans (raandallbeans.com/2017/02/21). Legumes are the broad umbrella of the plants, while beans are part of that umbrella. For most of us, we can use the terms interchangeably, unless you find yourself in a botany or plant phylogeny class–don’t go there okay. I did, (thank you Kansas State University–go Wildcats!) and I still have to look these things up.
Examples of legumes in no particular order:
Partial List of Legumes & Beans
- Adzuki beans
- Bambara groundnut
- Congo bean
- Cannellini beans
- Pinto beans
- Lentils (botanical-online.com has a full list of lentils if interested)
- Black-eyed peas (aka cowpeas)
- Fava beans (aka broad beans)
- Split peas
- Haricot (navy) beans
- Red kidney beans
- Scarlet runner bean
- Moth bean
- Tepary bean
- Lima beans
- Green beans
- Cajan peas
- Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
- Mung bean
- Urad bean
Now for the nitty-gritty details of how great they are for you!
Legumes provide protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Protein: Legumes have nearly twice the protein of cereal grains and are generally low in fat, and without pesky cholesterol. However, they are extremely low in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine, which we can absorb by adding wheat or grains to our meals.
Carbohydrates: like all carbs, each gram of legume has 4 kcal, with a low glycemic index rating for blood glucose control, meaning people with diabetes can eat these and not suffer an extreme spike in their glucose levels.
Dietary fiber: Legumes are a source of soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and resistant starch. You could potentially get 3-6 grams of good fiber in every 75 grams of cooked legumes. Soluble fiber helps to slow digestion so you feel fuller a bit longer; insoluble fiber helps with bowel movements; resistant starch works with good bacteria in your colon. Source: www.glnc.org.au/legumes/legumes-nutrition-legumes/fibre/
Minerals and Vitamins: Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, B-vitamins, especially folic acid (vitamin B-9), vitamins A & C in green beans.
Soybeans and peanuts do contain levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a “plant-based essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that must be obtained through the diet.” ALA is also being studied for symptoms of depression.
What legumes don’t have: gluten, cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium.