Eating healthy is a vital part of every health-conscious individual and includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins to make a balanced diet. But did you know that you could pack your pantry with protein and fiber by adding legumes to your shelf? Indeed, legumes are a filling side dish to any meal, and with the health benefits this source of fiber ingredients offers, you’ll want one of every kind! Choosing your favorites is the best part of meal preparation when it comes to deciding which ones make it to the dinner table.
Let’s examine legumes and the benefits of this staple food.
What are Legumes?
A legume is a term for plants with pods that have edible seeds. This vegetable is grown worldwide and comes in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and textures. The term “legume” refers to a plethora of plants–over 16,000 species! Did you know that beans are legumes, but not all legumes are beans? You may be surprised to learn that peanuts are legumes. In addition, soybeans, pulses, beans, and peas are categorized as legumes. This great source of fiber is found in many types of cuisines and dishes such as Italian, Mexican, and Asian to name a few.
Here’s a short list of legumes that you’ve probably eaten:
- Great Northern Beans.
- Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans.
- Black-eyed peas.
- Black beans.
- Green peas.
- Red Kidney beans.
- Lima beans.
- Navy beans.
Health Benefits of Legumes
Studies have indicated that legumes are a good source for adding fiber to your diet and offer additional health benefits that other fibers such as leafy vegetables found in salads don’t match. In addition, legumes are a great source of protection when it comes to fighting diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Legumes also contain antioxidants that help fight aging and prevent cell damage. Eating legumes as your source of fiber benefits your digestive system as well and may help prevent gastrointestinal cancer. Choosing legumes as your side dish gives you additional calcium, essential amino acids, magnesium, and potassium.
Take a look at this list of health benefits that legumes offer:
- Good source of fiber and protein
- Naturally low in fat
- Cholesterol Free
- Helps lower blood sugar and blood pressure
- Provides steady energy for the body, brain, and nervous system
How You Can Include More Legumes in Your Diet
You’ll find plenty of legume options at your local supermarket that include ready-made legume dishes, hummus dips, baked beans, minestrone soups, veggie burgers, and tofu. Make it Taco Tuesday night at your house and add refried beans to the menu. Whip up a tasty corn dish with black beans as another side or try a new recipe using beans. Add legumes to the grocery list each week and keep extra in the pantry for recipes or serving as a side with grilled chicken and a salad.
Here are a few ideas to help you add more legumes to your diet:
- Add legumes to your casseroles or soup recipes.
- Add marinated tofu to your vegetable kebobs or stir-fry.
- Serve hummus with chips or gourmet crackers for a delicious snack.
- Add legumes to your salads.
Healthy Eating Equals a Healthy Body
Consider the aforementioned benefits of adding legumes to your daily diet and shop for legumes that suit your taste buds. Try different varieties to discover your favorites. Shop the farmer’s markets for fresh garden-grown legumes that you can take home and prepare the same day. Enjoy the benefits and taste that this fiber-rich food offers you and welcome wellness!