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All types of legumes are healthy for your body in different ways. The more variety you can find a way to incorporate into your diet, the more balanced and whole your system will be.
Beans and legumes help regulate your digestive system with their high levels of fiber, they're loaded with plant protein, and often have antioxidants that help free your body of harmful free radicals, which clears your system and creates a strong immune system.
For some silly reason, people tend to be a bit afraid of beans. It could be the potential for your body to turn into a noisemaker after eating them, the after effects of Atkins dieting might still be taking its toll on wonderful carbohydrates, or it might be because we're most familiar with two kinds of beans; pork-n-beans and refried beans.
If you've been in the anti-bean camp, it's time to give them another shot. There are some many different types of legumes and even more ways to cook and flavor them that you can't be put off by what you've tried in the past.
Have you ever wondered what "legumes" means? The official definition is that it's "a climbing bean or pea plant and the fruit and seeds of any of those plants." So, beans are actually legumes. Where I get confused is with the idea that peanuts are actually legumes as well.
Normally, in cooking, we consider nuts to be a large seed that comes from a shell, like walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, and chestnuts.
These typical nuts are similar to legumes because they are inside a shell, but nuts usually only have one seed, the seeds are not attached to the wall, and nuts don't open on their own. With legumes, there are multiple seeds that are attached to the wall and they have a seam that easily opens.
To keep it simple, just keep in your head that beans are legumes. Other type of legumes are peas, clover, alfalfa, and... peanuts!
Beans and legumes are great sources of nutrition and have been eaten for at least 10,000 years. They have tons of fiber, protein, iron, folic acid, and B vitamins.
I definitely recommend buying dried types of legumes and beans and cooking them yourself. You maintain control over the ingredients used and especially the sodium level, and you can flavor them however you like. If you're interested in learning how to cook beans and legumes,I put together a simple ebook that you can keep in your kitchen or pantry by your dried beans.
Black beans have the most antioxidants of the beans, as well as tons of fiber and high-quality protein. They are often called turtle beans because of their shiny color.
You can make amazing black bean soup, black bean dip, and vegan black bean burgers with these versatile, flavorful beans.
Cannellini beans are low-fat, high in fiber, and have a good amount of magnesium, fiber, iron (twice as much as beef), and folate. They also have molybdenum to prevent headaches from sulfites, and thiamine, which improves mental reaction time.
I love the creamy texture of cannellini beans, and they're used often in Italian cooking, so I've always been really familiar with them. Cannellini are the beans in pasta e fagioli soup, and they make amazing dips and spreads.
Garbanzo beans, commonly called chickpeas, are a great source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, molybdenum for processing sulfites, and protein. They look like tiny wrinkled globes.
People are most familiar with garbanzo beans from the classic hummus spreads. Their flavor is easy to manipulate with seasonings, and because they're so packed with protein, they're a popular bean for vegan recipes.
Kidney beans have tons of fiber and protein, as well as a mineral called molybdenum. Molybdenum helps our bodies digest sulfites, which are added to foods and wines as a preservative. Many people are sensitive to sulfites, and kidney beans help remove them from the body. They get their name because they are shaped like little kidneys.
You are probably most used to seeing kidney beans in soups and vegan chilis, but they can also be mashed and formed into delicious bean balls or burgers.
Lentils have lots of fiber and protein and a large amount of isoflavones, which might help prevent breast cancer. They come in a variety of colors: green, brown, red, and french (dark green with spots on them.)
Search around on Vegan Nutritionista for my lentil soup recipe, which is always a bit hit at our house. You can also find lentils in a lot of Indian and Asian cooking, often spiced with amazing curries and cumin.
Lima beans have tons of fiber, protein, manganese, folate, potassium, iron, and copper. Sometimes you will see them sold under the name of butter beans because of their texture.
Lima beans may be the most dreaded in this list of the types of legumes and beans. I think a lot of kids must have eaten canned lima beans and grown scared of the horrible texture. Fresh lima beans have a delicate, delicious flavor, so try them again!
Navy beans are high in fiber, protein, folate, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorous, copper, magnesium and iron. They were eaten by the US Navy in the 1900s, and that's where they got their name.
These are nice white beans that can be used in a variety of dishes, or even just cooked and added to a simple dish of whole grains and vegetables. They are often used in three bean salads as well.
Pinto beans are high in fiber, protein, molybdenum, folate, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper, as well as antioxidants. Pinto beans also have a large amount of folate, which protects against heart disease and reduces birth defects. Their name comes from the Spanish word for painted because of the spotted color of the beans.
Pinto beans are also favorites in three bean salads, and along with black eyed peas, are popular in Southern cooking. When you're making them vegan, you can flavor them with smoke flavoring for a nice comforting dinner.
Soybeans are high in molybdenum and have protein, manganese, iron, phosphorous, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, and potassium. They have been around for 3000 years and are used to make meat replacements and are great for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Soybeans are some of the most prolific beans in our culture, though few people eat them directly out of the shells. When you do, you see them most often as edamame. Otherwise, they're pressed in tofu, tempeh, and soy milk, and the byproducts are used for everything from oil to rubber tires.
I hope you've enjoyed this list of the different types of legumes and beans. Add as many different kinds as you can to your diet.