The legume family is large and contains species that can grow in most soils and climates. Legumes include: dried beans, dried peas, lentils, peanuts, soya beans (and the many products made from soy), and bean sprouts.
A legume is defined as "the fruit or seed of any of various bean or pea plants consisting of a two-valved case that splits along both sides when ripe and having the seeds attached to one edge of the valves". They are the seeds of plants of the family Fabaceae (previously known as Leguminosae).
Beans have been a source of good nutrition for more than 10,000 years.
Common types of bean include chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, green or yellow split peas, soybeans, butter beans, red kidney beans, mung beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black beans, black-eyed beans, red beans and navy beans.
Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, folic acid, and other B vitamins.
Beans can be used in soups, stews, casseroles or even as dips.
A study of 9,600 Americans found that those who ate plenty of legumes had lower blood pressure and were less likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. [Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161: pp.2573-8].
A study of 9,600 Americans found that those who ate plenty of legumes had lower total cholesterol. Legumes are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to help lower total cholesterol and LDL (''bad'') cholesterol levels, the study authors note. [Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161: pp.2573-8].
Bulking up the diet with legumes such as beans and peas can lower the risk of heart disease, study findings suggest. Men and women who ate legumes at least four times a week were found to have a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease over 19 years than those who consumed legumes once weekly, researchers reported. The study was based on interviews and medical exams of more than 9,600 Americans who did not have heart disease when the study began. [Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161: pp.2573-8]
Legumes contain low levels of sodium and high levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium – a combination that is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Folate, a mineral also found in abundance in legumes, is thought to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a compound that can boost heart disease risk.
Increased dietary copper through legume consumption may protect against heart disease. [Archives of Internal Medicine 162, 15: pp.1780-1, August 12, 2002]
A study of 9,600 Americans found that those who ate plenty of legumes were less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Legumes are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to help improve insulin resistance, the study authors note. [Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161: pp.2573-8].
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