Most Australian’s aren’t too familiar with legumes, except for the fact they make you ‘windy’. However, legumes provide such an array of nutrients I almost class them in the super food category. Here’s a little introduction to what I call the ‘vegetarian’s meat’ (which all non-vegetarians can benefit from anyway!)
Legumes are the seed or pods from the leguminous plants and include commonly known types such as borlotti, red kidney, cannellini, soya, black, Haricot (navy) and mung beans, chickpeas, split peas, peanuts and lentils. They come in both dried and canned forms and are used across the world in many countries; think Indian dhal, Mexican beans, Miso soup, tofu, baked beans.
Legumes are rich in protein due to their ability to make amino acids through converting atmospheric nitrogen into its root nodules. They are also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, and thiamine that all assist with energy conversion and body rebuilding processes in the body. This group of foods are also notoriously known for their ridiculous amounts of fibre. Half a cup of cooked legumes provides an amazing 6g of fibre towards your daily total of 30g!! (an apple provides about 3g).
The best part about legumes is that they are cheap and readily available and are so easy to add into dishes. Here are a few of my suggestions on boosting protein and fibre, while saving a bit in the hip pocket.
Bolognese Sauce: Substitute 250g mince for 400g of canned red kidney beans (rinsed and drained). By the time the meat and beans break down, no one really can tell the difference (especially the kids!). You’ve also just saved yourself a few pennies whilst lowering the fat content of your sauce.
Pumpkin Soup: Add a can of chickpeas towards the last 5 minutes of cooking your pumpkin soup and blitz until smooth. It adds a lovely nutty flavour and tends to thicken your soup to a rich and creamy texture.
Stews/Casseroles: Throw in lentils as once they break down, they help to thicken up your dish. Brown lentils tend to stay in tact whilst red and yellow breakdown more easily.
Salads: There are some lovely and simple bean or chickpea recipes that are great for barbeques. Try an Italian mixed bean salad, roast pumpkin, spinach and chickpea salad or a black bean and Quinoa salad.
Breakfast: Don’t forget good ol' baked beans on toast for a great start to the day. If you’re not a fan of the canned variety, make your own using some garlic, canned tomatoes and herbs (oregano, basil).
WARNING: To avoid the excess bloating and flatulence, pre-soak all dried legumes overnight. Always rinse and drain before using in cooking. If you’re new to legumes, start by introducing small amounts and increase over time. Too much at once will only end in… you get the picture.
More info? http://www.glnc.org.au/legumes/
[Imagery sources: Carla Johnson - Dietitian Pinterest pinboard]
The way to Carla's heart is all things food. Follow her thoughts and opinions on the latest food news and myths.