Plant-based diets have become all the rage and with good reason–they’re a potent source of vitamins and minerals. Legumes have long bean a critical component of eating this way. They’re loaded with vegetarian protein as well as fiber, but that’s just a small portion of what they bring to the nutritionally dense table.
But which legumes are the healthiest? Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan or you’re just looking to add some nutritional bliss to your repertoire, these are some good choices.
The 6 Healthiest Legumes on the Planet
Lentils lower cholesterol because of their high levels of soluble fiber. It’s for this reason that they’re also good for digestive health. They prevent digestive disorders like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. In all, 26 percent of the calories in lentils can be attributed to protein.
2. Adzuki Beans
Adzuki beans are a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and B vitamins. They’re also called the weight loss bean because they’re among the lowest in calories and fat.
3. Black Beans
One cup of black beans has a whopping 15 grams of protein. Black beans are also a good source of folate, fiber, copper, manganese, vitamin B 1, phosphorus, protein, magnesium and iron.
4. Butter Beans
In the South, we call them butter beans because of their starchy and buttery texture, but they’re also called lima beans. Butter beans are a good source of fiber, copper, manganese, folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6. One study found that a diet high in legumes reduced the risk of heart disease by an incredible 82 percent. That’s right–82 percent!
5. Fava Beans
Fava beans are nutrient dense. Also known as broad beans, they have no saturated fat or cholesterol and they contain a high concentration of thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Just a cup supplies 37 percent of the daily requirement of fiber.
6. Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are amped up with antioxidants. They have concentrated forms of phytonutrients like quercin, kaempferol and myricetin.
Preparing Your Legumes
It’s best to use dry beans and cook them at home rather than canned lentils and beans to avoid the endocrine disruptor BPA found in the lining of most aluminum cans. Home cooked beans are also relatively easy to make and they taste much better. They are also less likely to cause digestive problems, particularly the gas and bloat which beans are famous for causing. Here are some simple tips for preparing legumes:
Tips for Cooking Lentils
- Rinse lentils 2-3 times.
- You do not need to soak lentils.
- Add 2 cups of water per 1 cup of lentils.
- Salt lentils.
- Cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
Tips for Cooking Beans
- Rinse beans 2-3 times.
- Soak beans for at least two hours in water.
- Add your beans to a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water.
- Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to a simmer.
- Remove the coating of white foam that forms on top with a wooden spoon if need be.
- The cooking time depends on the bean, but start checking after 30 minutes.
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Image: jean-louis zimmermann