Legumes are the fruit and seeds of the Fabaceae family of plants.
They are little power-packed bundles of protein, fiber, and have many other beneficial nutrients.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas have been nourishing us for thousands of years.
A rich source of vitamins, fiber, and protein, they have been linked to various health benefits such as weight control, reducing the risk of disease, and improving digestion.
Here’s the nutritional content of 1 cup (about 160g) of chickpeas.
- Protein: 14.4g (Recommended Daily Intake or RDI is 46-56g)
- Fat: 4.2g
- Carbohydrates: 45g (RDI 130g)
- Fiber: 12.5g (RDI 22 to 33g)
- Calcium: 80mg (RDI 1000 to 1300)
- Iron: 4.7mg (RDI 8 to 18mg)
- Magnesium: 79mg (RDI 310 to 420mg)
- Phosphorus: 274mg (RDI 700 to 1,250mg)
- Potassium: 474mg (RDI 4,700mg)
- Zinc: 2.5mg (RDI 8 to 11mg)
- Folate: 280mcg (RDI 400mcg)
Ways to prepare chickpeas include:
- Including boiled or steamed chickpeas in salads
- Blending chickpeas to make hummus
- Adding them to a vegetable soup or stew and serving with rice
- Replacing meat source in soups or curries with chickpeas
- Making falafel and frying
One of the oldest health foods, lentils were first grown in the Middle East around 8,000 BC.
They are an excellent source of B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, protein, and fiber.
In addition to that, they are rich in polyphenols, compounds that have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Polyphenols are plant compounds that act as a barrier to harmful free radicals and might reduce cancer risk.
Nutritional Information per 100g:
- Total fat: 0.4g
- Potassium: 369g
- Carbohydrate: 20g
- Fiber: 8g
- Protein: 9g
- Iron: 3mg
- Folate: 55mcg
Ways to cook lentils include:
- Adding to soup or stews for the extra nutrition and flavor
- Replacing meat in bolognese sauce
- Making a dip with garlic, onion, chili, and tomatoes
They may look like vegetables, but peas are legumes.
The different varieties of peas include garden or green peas, snap peas, and snow peas.
They are an excellent source of plant-based protein and have been credited with numerous health benefits such as supporting heart and digestive health, blood sugar management, and reducing cancer risk.
Here is the nutritional content of 100g of green peas:
- Carbohydrate: 14g
- Dietary fiber: 5g
- Sugar: 6g
- Protein: 5.4g
- Vitamin B6: 0.169mg
- Folate: 65mg
- Iron: 1.47mg
- Magnesium: 33mg
- Phosphorus: 108mg
- Calcium: 25mg
- Zinc: 1.24mg
- Vitamin C: 40mg
- Vitamin E: 0.13mg
Fresh peas that are still in the pods are usually steamed or boiled but can be stir-fried.
Dried peas can be soaked for six to eight hours before cooking to reduce the cooking time.
Also known as haricot beans, navy beans are rich in B vitamins, fiber, protein, and minerals.
A study of 38 children who had abnormal blood cholesterol found higher healthy cholesterol levels after eating navy beans every day.
Pintos are the most popular bean in the US. Commonly used in Mexican cuisine, they are often eaten whole, mashed up, or fried.
Also known as turtle beans, black beans contain loads of protein, fiber, and other nutrients such as zinc, folate, and phytonutrients with antioxidant properties.
In addition to the core nutrients, these guys come with folate, manganese, magnesium, and iron and have been linked to several health benefits such as controlling weight, reducing heart disease risk, and lowering blood pressure.
Sprinkle them into any salad or add to soups and stews for the added protein and nutrient boost.
Beans can be pre-soaked to reduce cooking time and reduce the oligosaccharides that give gas.
Is Corn A Legume?
When harvested fully mature, it is considered a whole grain.
However, when harvested fresh with liquid in its kernels, corn is viewed as a vegetable.
To further complicate things, some grains like popcorn that come from the seed or flower of the plant are considered fruit!
Dry corn and fresh corn have slightly different nutritional content.
Mature corn is a whole grain that contains tons of minerals, fiber, and vitamins.
Fresh corn on the cob or plain popcorn is an excellent source of protein, copper, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium.
100g of sweet corn contains:
- Carbohydrates: 19g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 3g
- Fat: Less than 1.5g
This nutritious snack has been linked to several health benefits like:
- Reducing anemia – Corn is rich in iron
- Lowering blood pressure – Phytonutrients lowers high blood pressure
- Regulating blood sugar – Controls the insulin levels
- Boosting energy – Corn in grain form contains complex carbohydrates that are slowly digested
Corn on the cob is extraordinarily versatile and can be roasted, steamed, grilled, or boiled.
They can be eaten whole or added to stews, salads, and sauces.
Which Vegetables Are Legumes?
This family of beans and peas comes from the family of plants called Fabaceae, or Leguminosae. (Source)
Some other common legumes are:
- Split peas
- Green peas
- Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Snow peas
- Black-eyed peas or cowpeas
Are Beans Vegetables Or Legumes?
Although in a separate food group, beans are very similar to vegetables in nutritional content.
Both food groups typically have high fiber, mineral, vitamin, and phytonutrient levels.
Beans are a vital source of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
To further complicate things, beans can also be included in the protein food group because of their high protein content.
The large amounts of amino acids available from beans make them an excellent substitute for meat in vegetarian and vegan diets.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has classified beans as part of the protein and vegetable food groups. (Source)
What Is The Difference Between A Legume And A Vegetable?
Vegetables can be divided into the following sub-groups:
- Dark Green / Cruciferous: This group includes broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, collards, spinach, and kale.
- They are jam-packed with nutrients such as fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate, and vitamins A and C.
- Root / Tubular: Also known as red and orange vegetables, these underground vegetables include squash, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, beets, onions, garlic, turnip, and sweet potato.
- Legumes / Beans / Peas: Coming from the seeds of plants, this group of beans includes black, pinto, soy, garbanzo, lima, kidney, split peas, and lentils.
Other Vegetables: This sub-group includes asparagus, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, avocado, sprouts, and eggplant.
Interesting Facts About Legumes
- Legumes are also known as “pulses”. However, green beans and peas that are harvested green are not considered pulses.
- The Greeks and Romans once used beans for voting. Black beans indicated opposition, while white beans stood for agreement.
- Fabaceae, the plant group responsible for legumes, has almost 20,000 different varieties, making it the third-largest plant family.
- Lima beans were first cultivated in Peru around 6,000 BC and were named after the capital of Peru, Lima. They are called “butter beans” in the US.
- Soybeans were first cultivated in Northern China by about 1100 BC.
- Mung beans are sprouted beans and sold as “bean sprouts”. No big surprise there!
- Beans give gas because they mainly consist of dietary fiber that gets fermented by our gut bacteria. These gut bacteria, known as probiotics, consist of 100,000 trillion microorganisms that eat the fiber our bodies cannot digest. The fermentation process gives off gas.
- Half a cup of black beans contains more iron than a 3 oz steak.
- Legumes have a lower carbon footprint than almost all other food groups. The plants enrich the soil in which they grow, and they can grow with minimal chemical fertilizers. Because of this, legumes are regarded as one of the most sustainable sources of protein.
It can be tricky to navigate the world of beans, vegetables, and legumes.
A broad way to understand the groups is to see vegetables as the all-encompassing food group with legumes as a sub-group.
And beans, being legumes, fit neatly under that umbrella.
Whatever the classification, the health benefit of legumes is undeniable.
Enjoy the little pockets of nutrition, and we wish you the very best of health.