Loving Legumes

Note: At the end of this month, I plan to do a food demonstration at MANNA, where I volunteer. (MANNA prepares weekly meals for about 750 people at risk nutritionally because of life-threatening diseases. They are often low income people, as well.) The theme is legumes, since these are an inexpensive way to enjoy foods high in fiber that help with cholesterol levels.  And since cholesterol is often linked with heart disease, and this is ♥ Heart Healthy Month♥, legumes seemed liked the perfect choice of foods to feature in February.

First, let’s define legumes. This simple definition comes from www.lifescript.com:

Beans, peas, and lentils are from a family of vegetables called legumes. They have numerous health benefits and provide a wealth of B-vitamins, protein, iron, copper and magnesium. Legumes supply the valuable B-vitamin called folate that helps guard against DNA damage and they are also low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fiber.

(Legumes are a general category that includes beans, peas, green beans, and lentils. They are sometimes called pulses, as well. es)

In Jonny Bowden’s wonderful book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, which I plan to review sometime soon, he goes one step further. He notes the positive aspects of  these foods. “Beans are loaded with fiber, a food component that has been associated with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.  They contain protein. They digest very slowly, providing sustained energy and making them an ideal food for those who need to avoid the ‘blood-sugar roller coaster.’ They lower cholesterol. And they’re loaded with protective phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins.” (p. 81)

Bowden also notes the negative effects for some people. Beans contain lectins, which are contained in legumes and grains that evolved to fight off insect predators. However, since a portion of lectin can bind with body tissues to create problems, some people need to avoid them. IF you have problems with an autoimmune disease, you may want your doctor to check you for reactions to legumes.

Since Jonny believes this affects only a small portion of people , I will say that for most people beans are a nutritional boon. (I use the term beans to be interchangeable with legumes.)

Here is a list of some common and uncommon legumes: aduki beans, anasazi beans, chick pea (garbanzo), black beans, fava beans, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, pigeon peas, green peas, pinto beans, soybeans (green, yellow, and black), string (green) beans, and wax beans.

Preparing Legumes: Of course, the easiest way to prepare beans is to open a can and heat them. Green beans can be steamed, and lentils cook in just a few minutes.  This is not to say you should never eat canned beans, but I will suggest a couple other ways to prepare them, if you are adventuresome. First, a note about eating beans from can.

Below is a statement from Eden Foods about can linings that I believe is worth reading and following:

All 33 Eden Organic Beans including Chili, Rice & Beans, Refried, and Flavored, are cooked in steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous c-enamel that does not contain the endocrine disrupter chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA). Oleoresin is a non-toxic mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir. These cans cost 14% more than the industry standard cans that do contain BPA. The Ball Corporation tells us that Eden is the only U.S. food maker to date to use these BPA free cans and we have been since April 1999.

Since reading about BPA as an endocrine disrupter, I buy only Eden canned beans, until I contact other can companies about their linings.

If you want to avoid cans altogether, here is how to prepare dried beans such as aduki, kidney, and garbanzo beans. (One exception: I do not cook black beans this way, because they never get soft enough, so I use Eden’s black beans.)

1. Rinse dried beans and remove any stones or broken pieces.

2. Soak in more than enough water to cover for several hours or overnight.

3. Strain and place in a colander and rinse 3 times each ay for two days so they will sprout. (You can skip this step if necessary.)

4. If you skip step #3, just spread beans on a pan and freeze at least 2 hours. Gather and place in freezer bags. Remove what you need to cook. They will cook quicker.

5. If you decide to sprout, follow #4 after the beans have sprouted. When you remove from the freezer to cook, they will cook even faster.  Or, skip #4 and just place in water to cook. They will also cook faster.  Sprouting helps break down the beans so they cook quicker. Sprouting also enhances their nutritional value.

NOTE: Preparing beans by soaking and sprouting often cuts down on the gas that some people experience. There is also Beano, a product made for this issue, but since I don’t have a problem digesting beans, I can’t comment on Beano.

Lentils actually don’t need soaking. Lentils come in many shades: red, green, brown and black, some smaller than others. You can soak them to hasten cooking, or just cook in water until soft. Split yellow or green peas also don’t need soaking. English peas, snap beans, snow peas, and green beans can be prepared in minutes by steaming.

Here are some ways to use legumes in your meals, excerpted from Superfoods by Steven Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews (William Morrow Books, 2004). I added the soup idea. Beans are one of the 14 superfoods discussed in t his book.

1. Hummus made from chickpeas. (You can also make black bean hummus or use almost any bean of choice.)

2. Bean salads. Combine different cooked beans with different veggies and dressing. (I will feature one that I am making for my food demo.)

3. Bake your beans in your favorite sauce. Or make bean chili.

4. Create your own succotash. Lima beans are popular in succotash, soups, and stews. (Baby limas are not as pasty as the large ones.) But you can use other beans, as well, such as black beans, green soybeans (recipe coming soon), and kidney beans with corn, bell peppers, onions, and spices. Yum!

5. Combine beans with pasta (pasta fagioli) or a grain such as rice, quinoa, or buckwheat groats. (Pasta Fagioli is often made into a soup, another way to use beans.)

6. Mash beans with garlic and herbs and use as a spread. (Recipe coming in the next posting.)


7. Add beans to soup or make a soup from pureed beans, as in Black Bean Soup.



So now you have lots of ideas to incorporate beans, peas and legumes into your everyday dishes, as side dishes or main dishes. If you create a new recipe, please send it to me with permission to post and share with others. My recipes are coming……♥


20 Responses to “Loving Legumes”

  1. Paula A. Buchak says:

    Great ideas. This sounds like Legumes 101. Very healthful!

  2. That’s what I meant it to be. Glad it worked. ellensue

  3. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  4. Thanx for reading me, ellensue

  5. Feel free to send me your ideas to: menupause.info @ gmail.com. Thanx for the offer, ellensue

  6. I think you already asked this, ellensue

  7. IF you want to make a comment, just emailme at menupause.info@gmail.com, because I never had the problem you write about so not sure how to fix it. apologies, es

  8. THanx 4 reading me, es

  9. i am always centered to write. I think i have ink in my veins! es

  10. Many thanx, ell ensue

  11. Sorry, I don’t. Wish I did. es

  12. There is a place for comments. But you can just email me at: menupause.info@gmail.com. Thanx 4 reading, ellensue

  13. I don’t have a solution. sorry, es

  14. YES! But it is not work, it’s passion for reaching out with helpful info in the written word that fuels me. es

  15. Sorry, I don’t. A webmaster might. ellensue

  16. Feel free to email me: menopause.info@gmail. Also place for comments @ end of each posting. es

  17. Sorry, I don’t know how to fix that, es

  18. BLOGS are meant to be brief by definition. Quick reading to get to the point is my goal. thanx, es

  19. I come back to legumes almost every year. thanx, for advice, ell ensue

  20. My essays post on my Twitter account and the comments come to my email, menupause.info@gmail, so check out my website often or Subcribe in upper right hand corner. thanx, ell ensue

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