Legumes…Huh?

By Kristin Yancy

Flygyal-Legumes

Legume. For some of you, this term may be a newbie. For others, you may be familiar with the word, but a little fuzzy on just who gets invited to the Legumes Family Reunion. For still others, you’ve simply forgotten to incorporate legumes into your daily diet. [If none of these apply to you, well then, SNAPS to you girl! We’re proud of you and your healthy life choices.]

Let’s start with the basics. “Legumes” are simple dry plants that bear their fruits as seeds– specifically as pods that can be split down the middle. In the context of food groups, the term legume is also used to characterize the pods themselves.  The foods that fall into this category are: beans (red beans, black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, soybeans, edamame), peas (chickpeas, black eyed peas), and some nuts (peanuts, soy nuts).

So why are we making such a big deal out of a pile of beans? The fact is, legumes are some of the healthiest and most versatile foods to add to your diet. They might be buried under kale crazes and juice cleanses, but the road to weight loss, weight management, mental health, and physical well being is one that definitely includes a healthy serving of these nutritious vegetables. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

Sounds kind of like a miracle food right? The best way to eat legumes (or anything really) is to cook them yourself, as some canned varieties have large amounts of sodium. Soak your beans overnight (change the water at least once) to rid them of the juices that tend to upset stomachs. Beans are cooked when they can be mashed easily with a fork or between two fingers. When it comes to efficient cooking, beans are easy to make in large amounts, make great leftovers, and freeze beautifully. Legumes are great additions to salads, soups, stews, and wraps.– a bowl of warm lentils hits the spot on a cold night!  Introducing these neglected super-vegetables into your meals can be a fun and easy way to balance out a healthy diet.

Thanks to the Mayo Clinic and the always handy Wikipedia for the helpful legume guides!

Photo via fellow WordPress blog Breaking Bread!

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