Matthew wrote me and said instead of telling people to eat legumes, I need to tell people what legumes are, and what the best 10 are.
That last part, the best 10, is somewhat subjective. I will tell you, nonetheless, 10 great legumes, because this whole class of food is HIGHLY UNDERRATED. That’s my next blog post. For now, I’m going to tell you some reasons to commit to eating this food group regularly.
They’re cheap, they’re high in fiber, they’re high in micro-nutrients, they’re filling, they’re low in calories, and they’re easy to obtain, worldwide. They store well and have a long shelf life, especially split peas and many beans.
They’re great for your heart. They have nutrients and fiber that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help you lose weight.
Eat a cup a day of cooked legumes, or more!
You can eat them in soups and stews, add cooked or sprouted ones to salads, or grind dry ones for bread or baked goods to substitute for part of the grains. I have LOTS of recipes in Ch. 6 of 12 Steps to Whole Foods with fabulous main dishes that deliciously leverage legumes.
They generally take an hour to cook, some even longer. But I highly recommend cooking your own, rather than buying them canned. Not only will you save money, but you’ll avoid sodium and any weird phthalates and other stuff leaching from the inside of the can.
Cook a big giant batch, to save time, and save 1 cup servings in Ziploc baggies in the freezer.
I like to add black beans and salsa to guacamole, so that I can eat lots of it on homemade organic corn chips. Then I’m guilt-free about the high calories and fat in guacamole. (I usually eat a whole avocado in one sitting. It’s very nearly a perfect food!)
I like to add chick peas (garbanzo beans) to salads. I love all varieties of lentils in soups. Find a few ways that you love to eat legumes!
Rinse legumes very well before putting fresh water on them to cook. They are amazingly dirty when they come out of the bag. Beans need to soak overnight (
legumes lentils and split peas don’t). Or, bring clean beans to a boil, turn it off, and let them soak two hours, to speed up the process. If they have been in your storage for years, I recommend soaking them, draining the water, and soaking them a second time, for up to a whole day. This makes flatulence less likely, which is a significant risk of eating really old beans.
Flatulence comes from the oligo saccharides sugars in the beans not converting well a form of sugars your body can use easily. Soaking the beans before cooking makes them easier to digest.
To cook them, drain the soak water, and add at least 3 cups of water for every 1 cup you originally had of dry beans. Cook as much as you want, but remember that 1 cup of dry beans will become about 2.5 cups of cooked beans! Put clean, soaked beans in a heavy saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, keep covered, and cook until beans are tender.
For lentils or split peas, this will be about 45 minutes. For beans, it will be 2-3 hours, or for very old beans, it could be 4 hours.
Don’t add acidic things to your beans until they are fully cooked. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt, or lemon juice later; otherwise it inhibits the beans cooking.
Edit: Corrected a typo above about soaking legumes.