Here’s an interesting fact: There is no single source that defines the name “legume”. The term “legume” is derived from the Latin word “latum” meaning bean which was used to describe the edible seeds of plants in the family Fabaceae (the pea or legume family). Legumes include beans, peanuts, lentils, peas, soybeans and split peas.
And as yo probably know, legumes are an excellent source of iron. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs. Low levels can lead to a form of anemia that causes tiredness, shortness of breath, pale skin, rapid heartbeat and a tendency towards infections. The high fiber content in legumes also helps with digestive health plus it helps lower cholesterol levels and promote weight loss.
A variety of legumes are known for their ability to reduce the risk of cancer. However, soy is the outstanding example. Soybeans are high in fiber, calcium, iron and many of the minerals that are essential for bone health. It’s also a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. They are an excellent addition to any meal plan! Did you even know that you should include one cup of cooked lentils at least once a week in your meal plan?
Drumroll please… lentils have been found to lower cholesterol levels more effectively than some cholesterol-lowering drugs! A recent study suggests that increased consumption of legumes lowered serum cholesterol levels more effectively than statin drugs did. The researchers believe that this is due to the high fiber content of legumes that helps improve digestion and maintain regular bowel movements.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial, participants were given either a low-fiber diet or a high-fiber diet as part of a weight loss program. Both meals contained 706 mg of fiber per day. By the end of each day, those who ate high-fiber foods had significantly lower cholesterol levels than those who didn’t.
Herbie Husband, a graduate student from the University of California Davis, is currently conducting a study on the use of legumes to treat chronic kidney disease. Last year, studies on humans found that a dietary fiber found in legumes called “alpha galacto-oligosaccharide” helps increase the activity of an enzyme which is supposed to help remove waste from cells – including those in the kidneys – and therefore improves the function of kidney cells. In this new study, Herbie Husband will test his theory on lab rats who suffer from chronic kidney disease.
It simply doesn’t matter if you love them, or not, legumes are cheap, yet healthy and nutritious and that makes them a great addition to almost every weekly menu. If you’re not sure, what to do with them, though, we recommend you checking out these recipes:
- Crock-Pot White Beans
- Summer Quinoa Salad
- Chocolate Protein Bars
- Decadent Black Bean Brownies
- Chewy White Bean Cookies
Do you like legumes? What are your favorite ones? And what legume recipe do you love the most? Let us know in the comments below!