Legumes — a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They’re also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.
If you want to add more beans and other legumes to your diet, you might be wondering what types of legumes are available and how to best prepare them. This guide can help.
Types of legumes:
Many supermarkets and food stores stock a wide variety of legumes — both dried and canned — for greater versatility in cooking.
Also known as: Azuki beans, asuki beans, field peas, red oriental beans Common uses: Rice dishes and Japanese or Chinese cuisine
Also known as: Jacob’s cattle beans
Common uses: Homemade refried beans and Southwestern recipes — especially soups
Also known as: Turtle beans, black Spanish beans and Venezuelan beans Common uses: Soups, stews, rice and beans, Mexican dishes, and Central and South American cuisine
Also known as: Cowpeas, cherry beans, frijoles, China peas, Indian peas Common uses: Salads, casseroles, fritters, bean cakes, curry dishes, and Southern dishes with ham and rice
Also known as: Garbanzos, garbanzo beans, ceci beans
Common uses: Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup and Spanish stews
Also known as: Green soybeans
Common uses: Side dishes, snacks, salads, soups, casseroles, and rice or pasta dishes
Also known as: Broad beans, faba beans, horse beans
Common uses: Stews and side dishes
Common uses: Soups, stews, salads, side dishes and the spicy Indian dish dal
Also known as: Butter beans, Madagascar beans
Common uses: Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads
Red kidney beans
Common uses: Stews, mixed bean salad, chili and Cajun bean dishes
Also known as: Soybean seeds, roasted soybeans
Common uses: Snacks or as garnish to salads
Beans and other large, dried legumes, such as chickpeas and black-eyed peas, require soaking in room temperature water, a step that rehydrates them for more even cooking. Soak the legumes in water for about six to eight hours or soak them overnight.
Another way to rehydrate beans is to place them in water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Then cover and let the beans soak for an hour. Once rehydrated, the beans are ready to cook.
“Quick-cooking” legumes have already been presoaked and redried and don’t need extra soaking. Canned legumes make quick additions to dishes that don’t require long simmering. Rinse prepared and canned legumes well to remove any sodium added during processing.
Beans and other legumes can lead to the formation of intestinal gas. Here are several ways to reduce the flatulence-inducing quality of legumes:
* Discard the soaking water before cooking. Some of the gas-producing food particles get absorbed in the water.
* Change the water several times during soaking and cooking.
* Simmer beans slowly until they are tender. This makes them easier to digest.
* Add digestive aids, such as Beano, to legume dishes to help reduce the amount of gas they produce. For Beano to be effective, you need to take it with your first bite of food.
Adding more legumes to your diet
Consider these ways to incorporate more legumes into your meals and snacks:
* Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
* Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
* Add chickpeas or black beans to salads.
* Snack on a handful of soy nuts rather than on chips or crackers.
* Add garbanzos or other canned beans to your salad. If you typically buy a salad at work and no beans are available, bring beans from home in a small container.
If you can’t find a particular type of legume in the store, you can easily substitute one type of legume for another. For example, pinto and black beans are good substitutes for red kidney beans. And cannellini, lima beans and navy beans are easily interchangeable. Experiment with what types of legumes you like best in your recipes to make your meals and snacks both nutritious and interesting.
Obesity has become such a worldwide problem, doctors and health professionals are all looking for more natural methods of weight loss for their patients. Finally, the method that has been studied and has shown the greatest success, is the use of green tea to help reduce body fat and weight. Green tea is no mystery to the Chinese. They have known the benefits of this weight loss and body loss plant for centuries. The green tea studies show significant results in reducing body fat and overall weight loss.
When most people diet, they fail to reach their goal because they think starving their way to health is the right way. When you do this, you actually put the body into an “energy saving” state which then lowers your metabolism, with the end result being, fewer calories burned. Your body can’t run without any energy, so then what it does, is go to your muscles to get energy. Many people trying to lose weight this way don’t realize that it’s muscle they are losing rather than body fat weight loss. A sensible diet while using green tea, will always produce a much better result in your efforts to lose weight and body fat.
Helping to boost your metabolism, is just another terrific benefit of green tea. Your body will absorb less fat while you’re drinking green tea. Another benefit of this astonishing plant. As if those benefits weren’t already enough reason to use it, green tea in weight loss also helps your body regulate blood sugar levels, which then helps to decrease your food cravings that everyone gets while dieting.
Realizing that green tea is not an appetite suppressant, you’d better prepare to add a moderate diet and exercise into your weight loss plan. Unscrupulous companies may try and say that green tea is an appetite suppressant, but that has not been shown in most studies. The increase of endurance levels from green tea, assists you to actually exercise for longer periods of time. Any dieter will profit while drinking green tea and exercising, over someone who only diets and exercises.
Losing weight slowly so that you are burning fat and not muscle, is the real key to lingering weight loss. You don’t want to lose muscle through your travail to lose weight and body fat. Another important factor to consider is water loss from your body. If you’re only losing water, the minute you stop the diet and exercise, the weight and fat will be back again. You can see why burning fat is so imperative.
Don’t be under the fantasy that green tea is a fast acting diet plan and you should use it in order to achieve long term goals. Your metabolism will be aided. A diet and exercise program along with green tea will greatly increase your results over the diet and exercise only plan. The metabolism of a person not using green tea will be more slow than the person using green tea for weight loss.
The antioxidant and metabolic benefits, make green tea something you should want to continue using even after your diet plan is finished.
“Eat your fruits and vegetables” is one of the tried and true recommendations for a healthy diet. And for good reason. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called “diverticulitis,” and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss.
What does “plenty” mean? If you don’t count potatoes – which should be considered a starch rather than a vegetable – the average American gets a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on one’s caloric intake. For a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, this translates into nine servings, or 4½ cups per day. How many of us eat, even close to that amount? Not me!
Over the past 30 years or so, researchers have developed a solid base of science to back up what generations of mothers preached. Early on, fruits and vegetables were acclaimed as cancer-fighting foods. Now, it’s supported in part by the National Cancer Institute. The latest research, though, suggests that the biggest payoff from eating fruits and vegetables is for the heart.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Cardiovascular Disease
There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The largest and longest study to date, done as part of the Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, included almost 110,000 men and women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 14 years. The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest category of fruit and vegetable intake (less than 1.5 servings a day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke.
Although all fruits and vegetables likely contribute to this benefit, green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale; and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit (and their juices) make important contributions.
Fruits and Vegetables, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol
High blood pressure is a primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke. As such, it’s a condition that is very important to control. Diet can be a very effective tool for lowering blood pressure. One of the most convincing associations between diet and blood pressure was found in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study. This trial examined the effect on blood pressure of a diet that was rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and that restricted the amount of saturated and total fat. The researchers found that people with high blood pressure who followed this diet reduced their systolic blood pressure (the upper number of a blood pressure reading) by about 11 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by almost 6 mm Hg – as much as medications can achieve.
Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help lower cholesterol. In the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Family Heart Study, the 4466 subjects consumed on average a shade over 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Men and women with the highest daily consumption (more than 4 servings a day) had significantly lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol than those with lower consumption. How fruits and vegetables lower cholesterol is still something of a mystery. It is possible that eating more fruits and vegetables means eating less meat and dairy products, and thus less cholesterol-boosting saturated fat. Soluble fiber in fruits and vegetables may also block the absorption of cholesterol from food.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer
Numerous early studies revealed what appeared to be a strong link between eating fruits and vegetables and protection against cancer. Data from cohort studies that follow large groups of initially healthy individuals for years have not consistently shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables prevents cancer in general. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study support this finding. Over a 14-year period, men and women with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables (8+ servings a day) were just as likely to have developed cancer as those who ate the fewest daily servings (under 1.5).
A more likely possibility is that fruits and vegetables may protect against certain cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, recently completed a monumental review of the best research on fruits, vegetables, and cancer. Here’s what this 387-page tome concludes about studies in humans: “There is limited evidence for a cancer-preventive effect of consumption of fruit and of vegetables for cancers of the mouth and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon-rectum, larynx, lung, ovary (vegetables only), bladder (fruit only), and kidney. There is inadequate evidence for a cancer-preventive effect of consumption of fruit and of vegetables for all other sites.” However, considering all evidence from human epidemiological, animal, and other types of studies, it appears that eating more fruit “probably lowers the risk of cancers of the esophagus, stomach and lung” and “possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, colon-rectum, larynx, kidney, and urinary bladder.” Eating more vegetables “probably lowers the risk of cancers of the esophagus and colon-rectum” and “possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, stomach, larynx, lung, ovary and kidney.”
Keep in mind that this is for total fruit and total vegetable consumption and that, as pointed out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, specific fruits and vegetables may protect against specific types of cancer. For example, a line of research stemming from a finding from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest that tomatoes may help protect men against prostate cancer, especially aggressive forms of it. One of the pigments that give tomatoes their red hue – lycopene – could be involved in this protective effect. Although several studies other than the Health Professionals’ study have also demonstrated a link between tomatoes or lycopene and prostate cancer, others have not or have found only a weak connection. Taken as a whole, however, these studies suggest that increased consumption of tomato-based products (especially cooked tomato products) and other lycopene-containing foods may reduce the occurrence or progression of prostate cancer. But more research is needed before we know the exact relationship between fruits and vegetables, carotenoids, and prostate cancer.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Gastrointestinal Health
One of the wonderful components of fruits and vegetables is their indigestible fiber. As fiber passes through the digestive system, it sops up water like a sponge and expands. This can calm the irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation. The bulking and softening action of insoluble fiber also decrease pressure inside the intestinal tract and so may help prevent “diverticulosis” (the development of tiny, easily irritated pouches inside the colon) and diverticulitis (the often painful inflammation of these pouches).
Fruits, Vegetables, and Vision
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables also keeps your eyes in good shape. You may have learned that the vitamin A in carrots aids night vision. Other fruits and vegetables help prevent two common aging-related eye diseases – cataract and macular degeneration – which afflict millions of Americans over age sixty-five. Cataract is the gradual clouding of the eye’s lens, a disk of protein that focuses light on the light-sensitive retina. Macular degeneration is caused by cumulative damage to the macula, the center of the retina. It starts as a blurred spot in the center of what you see. As the degeneration spreads, vision shrinks.
Free radicals generated by sunlight, cigarette smoke, air pollution, infection, and metabolism cause much of this damage. Dark green leafy vegetables contain two pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, that accumulate in the eye. These two appear to be able to snuff out free radicals before they can harm the eye’s sensitive tissues.
In general, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains appears to reduce the chances of developing cataract or macular degeneration.
Recommendations for Fruit and Vegetable Intake
Fruits and vegetables are clearly an important part of a good diet. Almost everyone can benefit from eating more of them, but variety is as important as quantity. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. The key lies in the variety of different fruits and vegetables that you eat.
Here’s a special link to Dietary Guidelines For Your Children
Some basic fruit and vegetable tips:
* Try to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you need 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight and health, aim for at least nine servings (4½ cups) a day. Otherwise, juice your fruits and vegetables.
* Choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to the food you eat. Break out and try a wider variety, include dark-green, leafy vegetables; yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables; cooked tomatoes; and citrus fruits.