Legumes may not be on the top of your shopping list, and it looks like you’re not alone. It is estimated that only 22% of the Australian population are eating legumes at least once per week.
Legumes are great sources of dietary fibre. Fibre helps the body in numerous ways, from slowing the release of carbohydrates, to lowering blood cholesterol levels (legumes are low G.I.). This subsequently means that by increasing your intake of lentils and legumes, you will help reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Legumes are also great for your gut health, providing a good source of prebiotics. There is growing evidence to promote the health benefits associated with healthy gut mircoflora.
These benefits include:
• Reducing the prevalence and duration of infectious and antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
• Reducing the inflammation and symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
• Exerting protective effects to prevent colon cancer.
• Enhancing the bioavailability and uptake of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and iron.
• Lowering some risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
• Promoting satiety and weight loss, to prevent obesity.
Not only this, they are also high in B group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. To add even further to the positives of increasing legumes in your diet, Legumes are also a great source of protein that is low in saturated fat.
Also recognised as a barrier for the regular inclusion of legumes, is that we don’t know how to cook them. Legumes aren’t just kidney beans. Variety of available legumes is as wide as the cuisines they complement.
Firstly, you can buy legumes dried or in tins. When bought in the tinned variety, they need simply to be opened, drained and rinsed. They can then be added to raw foods like salads, or cooked with meat and many other dishes. The dried variety must be soaked in water overnight, then boiled in water until soft. This usually around 45 to 60 minutes.
Secondly, what cuisines do legumes combine well with ?
Black Eyed Beans
Also known as Black-eyed peas, these hold their shape when cooked. Great in Italian salads, casseroles and fritters.
Black Beluga Lentils
The lentils are creamy in colour under the skin, and have an earthy flavour. Black lentils are great in Indian cooking, salads, vegetarian and meat burger patties or mixed with couscous.
These beans hold their shape when cooked, and are great for rice dishes, salads or Mediterranean soups.
Cannellini beans holds its shape when cooked, and is traditionally used in Italian recipes such as pasta, salads, and soups or even as a side dish.
More than just hummus, Chickpeas are diverse legumes used in many traditional cuisines. Great to use in salads, casseroles, or soup. They subsequently balance well with the flavours of Spanish, North African, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
Butter beans are large creamy beans that are used as a high fibre substitute for mashed potatoes. These legumes are great in Italian, Greek and Spanish cuisines.
Visit the “Optimum Nutrition for Women” Facebook page to find recipes to feel the health benefits associated with eating legumes regularly.