Legumes: just a posh word for beans? Nope. They’re up there with leafy greens and whole grains as a food group you should probably be eating more of
Swot up on legumes, the kitchen basics that pack a punch
If it’s been a few years since you heard the one about Jack and his beanstalk, allow us to refresh your memory. At the centre of this story are some magic beans. As to their potency, Jack was sceptical. But the beans delivered, and then some. Which is why you’d do well to keep an open mind while we tell you about some little morsels that offer a more modern kind of magic. Consistently listed by nutrition experts as wonders of home cooking and meal prep, legumes (ley-gooms) come from plants that bear seeds and pods – so beans, as well as peas and nuts, sit under the umbrella term. ‘Legumes are quite unique in that they’re an incredible source of both protein and fibre,’ says Helen Bond, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. ‘They’re nutrient-dense, meaning they’re generally low in calories and fat but pack a lot of vitamins, minerals and nutrients into one serving.’ Their powers are rooted in science. Recent research suggests they could be an untapped resource when it comes to weight loss. A 2017 study from the University of Copenhagen found that those who ate a serving of legumes at one meal consumed 12% fewer calories at their next. Another study published in the Journal Of The American College of Nutrition found that people who consumed legumes regularly were slimmer and had a lower risk of becoming obese later in life than those who didn’t. ‘It all comes down to their high fibre content, which means they’re great for digestion,’ adds Bond. ‘They also feed the good bacteria in your gut, which we now know is beneficial to your overall health.’ And it gets better. Three heaped tablespoons count as one of your five a day. They’re cheap, easy to cook and nutritionists consistently say we should all be eating more of them. So why aren’t we? ‘Not everybody knows what a legume is,’ says Bond. ‘It’s a strange word and interchangeable with others, like pulses, beans and lentils, which are actually subcategories of the legume family. There are many different types, but nearly all are full of fibre, protein and many different health-protecting vitamins and minerals. So rather than get hung up on their fat or vitamin content, include a wide variety in your diet and try a new one each week.’ Full of beans? You will be.