Legumes . . . you’ve likely heard of them and probably think of them as “good for you,” but may also not exactly know what the legume family includes and why exactly you should be seeking them. While 2016 may have been the International Year of Pulses (wait – what’s a pulse?), every year is a year to celebrate little, but mighty, legumes.
Legumes include a large group of nutrient rich foods that you are likely familiar with, including soybeans, peanuts, fresh beans and peas, and pulses. Pulses, which are the dried seeds of legume plants, include dry beans, lentils, dried peas, chickpeas, faba beans and more. So just to be clear, a pulse is a legume, but not all legumes are pulses. But, why was 2016 the Year of Pulses? This was an initiative by the United Nations to position legumes as a sustainable, plant powered protein source with global benefits. While we may be close to wrapping up 2017, this initiative remains influential and part of a larger global initiative for greater plant based consumption between now and 2020.
Legumes are rich in a variety of nutrients and an excellent source of protein and fiber-rich carbohydrate. Legumes are also abundant in micronutrients, specifically folate, iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium, as well as phytonutrients (antioxidants). In their natural state, legumes are low in sodium. If you purchase them canned, look for the low sodium label and rinse them thoroughly before using to remove additional sodium. Legumes are also naturally gluten free.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy legumes. Lentils for example, can replace ground meat in some dishes and pureed beans can be easily added to many recipes like meatloaf, stews, veggie burgers and more. Intimidated by dried beans and legumes? The first (and very important) step is to soak your dried legumes (unless you are preparing black-eyed peas, split peas, or lentils). Before soaking, rinse them well and discard any that that are discolored or shriveled. Once you are ready, consider your timing, and try one of these techniques recommended by the Bean Institute:
Recommended method: Place beans in a large pot and add 10 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans. Heat to boiling and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 4 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse.
Quick soak: Place beans in a large pot and add 6 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans. Bring to boil and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain beans, discard soak water, and finally rinse beans with fresh, cool water before using.
No soak: It’s possible to pass on soaking if you’ll be making a soup or stew. You will just need to add cooking time and monitor cooking as the beans absorb the cooking water.
Now what? Enjoy beans in a variety of recipes, as a salad topper, mixed with whole grains and “as is” along with diced veggies for a fresh salsa.
As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit www.hannaford.com/dietitians for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours or call 845-855-0553 for more information.
Pumpkin & Bean Soup
With so many beautiful bean recipes available at www.guidingstars.com, it’s hard to pick just one. This simple, seasonal soup is just right for a fall day. Please visit www.guidingstars.com for more on the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.
1 can (15 1/2 ounce) white beans, low-sodium, rinsed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) water
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin, unsalted
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) 100% apple juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, or ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Blend white beans, onion, and water with a potato masher or blender until smooth.
2. In a large pot, add the pumpkin, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt. Stir.
3. Add the blended bean mix to the pot. Cook over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes, until thoroughly warmed. Serve.