Why legumes deserve more of your love


When it comes to nutrition, legumes are the plant-world's dynamite in small packages. They may be little - but they’re nutrient bombs! If you're unsure what legumes are or how to prepare them, learn all you need to know here.

Legumes are sometimes overlooked when it comes to super foods, but these unassuming pods are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Read on to learn what they are and how to use them.

The word 'legumes' refer to plants with seed pods that split into two halves. These include alfalfa, clover, lupin beans, green beans, peas, soy beans, dry beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Legumes are jam-packed with protein and fibre, various vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, phosphorus, folate and other B vitamins, as well as healthy plant compounds called phytochemicals. They are also incredibly low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Lean towards legumes

A good supply of legumes will help reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and colon cancer. The fibre found in legumes helps to decrease cholesterol levels, guard against diabetes, prevent constipation and protect against gallstones.

"A half-cup serving of cooked legumes is a protein source comparable to a 30g serving of meat, poultry, fish or one egg," says Vitality dietitian Terry Harris. "But if legumes are your only source of protein (such as in a vegan diet), monitor your iron and vitamin B12 levels carefully and discuss supplementation with your doctor."

You can enjoy many health benefits by eating legumes at least three times a week. Here are some pointers on how to prepare legumes for cooking.

How to prepare legumes

Dried beans and legumes, with the exceptions of black-eyed peas and lentils, require soaking in room-temperature water, usually overnight. To soak, choose one of the following methods:

  1. Slow soak: In a stockpot, cover 450g dried beans with 10 cups water. Then cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Quick soak: In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 450g dried beans and return to a boil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Then cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

After soaking, rinse the beans, place them in a pot, and cover them with three times their volume of fresh water. Add herbs or spices to the beans and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the legumes are tender. The cooking time depends on the type of legume, but start checking after 45 minutes.

An easier option, of course, is to open a can - just remember to rinse and drain the contents in a sieve or colander first to remove the salty water. For great ideas on how to incorporate legumes into more of your meals, read 'How to power up your meals with pulses.'

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Verve up your veggies

Plant-based foods are rich in minerals, fibre and phytonutrients. Embrace the abundance of the earth with the HealthyFood Studio Versatile Vegetables courses, and learn how to turn a variety of vegetables into much-loved meals.

Book a Versatile Veggies course now!

Pay less for your legumes with Vitality HealthyFood

It's well worth making healthy food choices with Vitality - you nourish your body and ease your wallet! Enjoy up to R1 000 cash back per family per month on HealthyFood at Pick n Pay and Woolworths stores. Check the HealthyFood catalogues to see which items qualify, or look out for the HealthyFood sticker in-store to top up on your legumes for less!
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