What is legumes

Legumes are controversial in certain circles.

Some people even choose to eliminate them from their diet. However, legumes are a staple food in many cultures.

Thus, you may wonder whether they’re beneficial or harmful.

This article explains whether legumes are good or bad for your health.

What are legumes?

The legume family consists of plants that produce a pod with seeds inside. The term “legume” is used to describe the seeds of these plants.

Common edible legumes include lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts.

The different types vary greatly in nutrition, appearance, taste, and use (1).

SUMMARYLegumes is a general term used to describe the seeds of plants from the legume family, which includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts.

Rich in both protein and fiber

Legumes have a remarkable nutritional profile and are a rich source of healthy fibers and protein (2Trusted Source).

For example, 1 cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils provides (3Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 230
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Fiber: 16 grams
  • Carbs: 40 grams
  • Iron: 37% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Folate: 90% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 17% of the DV
  • Potassium: 16% of the DV

What’s more, the same amount offers over 10% of the DV for vitamins B1, B3, B5, and B6, as well as phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Legumes are among the best plant-based sources of protein. They’re not only highly nutritious but also cheap, which makes them a staple in many developing countries (4Trusted Source).

SUMMARYLegumes are highly nutritious, packing plenty of protein and fiber. They’re also cheap and widely available.

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Contain antinutrients

The nutritional quality of legumes is hampered by certain compounds.

Raw legumes contain antinutrients, which can interfere with digestion and the absorption of other nutrients.

Phytic acid

Phytic acid, or phytate, is an antioxidant found in all edible plant seeds, including legumes.

It impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium from the same meal and may increase the risk of mineral deficiencies in people who rely on legumes or other high-phytate foods as a dietary staple (5Trusted Source6).

However, this is only relevant when meat intake is low and high-phytate foods regularly make up a large part of meals — which is common in developing countries (7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

People who regularly eat meat are not at risk of mineral deficiencies caused by phytiusted Source10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).

You can reduce legumes’ phytic acid content through several methods, including soaking, sprouting, and fermentation (1213Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

Lectins

Lectins are a family of proteins that may constitute up to 10% of the total protein content of legumes .

They resist digestion and may affect the cells lining your intestinal tract.

One well-studied lectin is phytohemagglutinin, which is found in red kidney beans. It’s toxic in high amounts, and several incidents of poisoning have been reported after consumption of raw or improperly cooked kidney beans .

In most other edible legumes, the amount of lectins is not high enough to cause symptoms.

That said, beans should only be eaten fully cooked and prepared.

Soaking them overnight and boiling them at 212°F (100°C) for at least 10 minutes degrades phytohemagglutinin and other lectins .

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