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How To Eat Legumes

Robyn Openshaw - Updated: March 21, 2024 - - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Photo of wooden spoon holding legumes from "How to Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

Here’s a little quiz: what do mesquite, beans, carob, peas, soy, peanuts, lentils, and even alfalfa and clover all have in common?

Say it with me: “lay-gooms.”  Legumes--the food group with a weird name--are plants whose seed grows inside a pod.

In this article:


Photo of hands holding beans in heart shape from "How to Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

Legumes are an amazing food group that is often forgotten, but high in so many nutrients (and delicious!)

Health Benefits of Legumes

I love legumes! This whole class of food is highly underrated. I’m going to tell you some reasons to commit to eating this food group regularly, what my favorite 10 are, and give you my BEST legume recipes (including my famous split-pea soup) in a free ebook!

Legumes are 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.

Legumes are high in protein while being low in fat. In his book How Not To Die, Dr. Michael Gregor cited major studies that associate higher legume consumption (about a cup a day) with lower risks for cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

In a podcast I recently recorded with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the Eat To Live author shared why regular legume-eaters have higher amounts of unique beneficial bacteria in their guts, a special biofilm that buffers the glycemic load of higher-carb foods.  Scientists call it “the second meal effect,” where this biofilm slows glucose absorption from minutes to hours.  It’s just one of what Dr. Fuhrman says in the podcast are “a million reasons why beans extend lifespan.”

(And don’t buy into the bad rap legumes have gotten lately for their supposed “anti-nutrients,” phytates and purines.  I addressed those scare tactics in another post.)

Bottom line: EAT MORE LEGUMES!

Legumes Are Easy to Add to Your Diet

There are lots of ways to incorporate legumes into meals or snacks.

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.  You can puree legumes and make yummy spreads for sandwiches or for dipping.

Photo of black beans and guacamole from "How to Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

Guacamole is made even better by adding Black Beans for taste, nutrition, and extra filling.

I like to add black beans and salsa to guacamole so that I can eat lots of it on homemade organic corn chips.

I like to add chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to salads.

I love all varieties of lentils (green, red, and brown) in soups.

Legumes 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 the freezer.

How to Cook Legumes: Tips and Tricks

Before putting legumes in fresh water to cook, rinse them very well; they're amazingly dirty when they come out of the bag. Beans need to soak overnight (lentils and split peas don’t). As another option, you can bring clean beans to a boil, turn off the burner, and let them soak two hours to speed up the process.

If the legumes you're using 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.

(Flatulence comes from the oligosaccharides sugars in the beans not converting well into a form of sugars your body can use easily. Soaking the beans before cooking makes them easier to digest.)

To cook, 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, like tomatoes, vinegar, salt, or lemon juice, to your beans until they are fully cooked; doing it earlier inhibits the beans from cooking.

My Favorite 10 Legumes

  1. Lentils. Lentils are truly a super food, and you can buy the red, green, or brown varieties, all of which have a slightly different nutritional profile and texture. Brown lentils are the most common and least expensive. You don’t need to soak lentils, like beans. They’re high in fiber, protein, Vitamins B1, B5, and B6, niacin, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.

    Photo of Lentil Beans from "How To Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Lentils have different varieties, are loaded with nutrients, and don't need to be soaked like beans.


  2. Split Peas. These take about an hour to cook and are called ‘split peas’ because when they’re harvested and dried, they naturally split in half. Split peas are high in protein, fiber, Vitamin B1 and B5, potassium, and phosphorus. They’re so easy to use in soup–and please leave the bacon out! You’ve GOT to try my amazing split pea soup recipe in the free ebook I’ll send you!

    Photo of Split Peas from "How To Eat Legumes" By Green Smoothie Girl

    Split peas are easy to use in soup - and we have a recipe for you at the end!


  3. Black Beans. Everyone’s favorite legume! I love adding black beans to guacamole and salsa as a dip, or mashing them for a burrito. You'll get a lot of protein, Vitamin B1, iron, folate, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese with these babies.
  4. Black-Eyed Peas. Most people in the Northern states don’t know this delightful little legume, but they cook in an hour or less. I grew up in the South, where dinner was often a bowlful of black-eyed peas, plus a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar. It was simple, but I loved it! And black-eyed peas are high in fiber, protein, four B vitamins, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese.

    Photo of Black-Eyed Peas from "How To Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Black-eyed peas are very quick to cook and high in fiber, protein, vitamins, and other vital nutrients.


  5. Pinto Beans. These might be the cheapest legume you can buy, and they're also easy to store. I grew up with this food as a staple that raised 8 children to adulthood on one military salary. Big pots of vegetarian chili are one of my main memories of growing up. Pinto beans are high in fiber, protein, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, B1, and molybdenum.
  6. Kidney Beans. These are my favorite for adding to a salad, as they taste very starchy, which is a nice complement and balance to crunchy greens and vegetables. Plus, they’re pretty and dark red. A mix of these and pinto beans are great in vegetarian chili. They are high in fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins B1, B3, B5, and calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron.
  7. Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans). Everybody loves hummus, and there are so many things you can put in mashed chickpeas with a little lemon juice, sea salt, and tahini (sesame paste); sundried tomatoes or any kind of olives are great options. I also love them in salads. Chickpeas are low in calories and high in protein, fiber, manganese, folate, copper, phosphorus, and iron.

    Photo of Chick Peas from "How To Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Chickpeas are what make up delicious hummus and are very versatile.


  8. Soybeans. Soybeans are heavily genetically modified in North America, so buy ONLY organic to make sure you’re getting the good available from this food, and not the bad. Soybeans are extremely high in protein, so for many years, vegetarians made use of soy-based “meat replacement” products. I suggest avoiding all processed soy products and eating only whole, organic, occasional soybean foods such as edamame, tofu, or tempeh, or organic miso or nama shoyu as seasonings. Soybeans are well known to be high in isoflavones, a class of antioxidants that fight cancer, ease hormonal symptoms in women, and increase bone density. They’re also high in fiber, calcium, Vitamin B2, manganese, molybdenum, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and omega-3 fats. Try sauteing tempeh as a sandwich filling or salad topping to replace meat.

    Photo of Soy Beans from "How To Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Soybeans are heavily modified genetically (a GMO) so make sure you only buy organic!


  9. Lima Beans. Sometimes called “butter beans,” these large Peruvian beans make a nice soup with onions and root vegetables (potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc.), or they’re great mashed in a burrito or with sweet potatoes. They’re high in protein and fiber, as well as folate, molybdenum, tryptophan, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin B1.
  10. Mung Beans.  Ayurvedic doctors feed this to sick people because they’re such a power food. It’s easy to sprout these tiny beans; just soak them overnight, drain in the morning, and rinse and rotate them twice a day until you see “tails” about ¼” long. In two days, you’ve got a superfood for your salads and sandwiches. They’re chock full of protein, fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, iron, and phosphorus.

    Photo of Mung Beans from "How To Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

    Mung Beans are a power food, used by Ayurvedic doctors to help sick people with nutrients.

Best-Ever Split Pea Soup Recipe

Split pea soup got a bad rap in some classic horror flick I can’t remember, but just wait a little minute, here, because it deserves another look.

I want to send you my split pea soup recipe. It’s cheap to make, you can keep it in the fridge for a week, and it’s better the 2nd and 3rd days as flavors come together. It’s a great new recipe in your arsenal of strategies to eat more plants and increase your nutrition for better energy and ideal weight.

I’ve included the recipe in this free Luscious Legumes Recipes ebook I’d love to send you. Tried-and-true dishes your family will love, from my kitchen to yours!

Grab your FREE Luscious Legumes Recipe ebook here!

Read next: Grains and Legumes Made Easy

Photograph of Robyn Openshaw, founder of Green Smoothie GirlRobyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that help support the GSG mission without costing you extra. I recommend only companies and products that I use myself.

Photo of wooden spoon holding legumes with post title from "How to Eat Legumes" by Green Smoothie Girl

Posted in: Preparedness, Recipes, Whole Food

17 thoughts on “How To Eat Legumes”

Leave a Comment
  1. Cindy says:

    Can’t wait. My family loves your split pea soup recipe. They fight over the leftovers. It makes me happy.

    1. Robyn says:

      Cindy, that makes ME happy too.

  2. Carrie says:

    Robyn, why does meat help dental health? Have you written an article already explaining this that you can point me towards or can you tell me why clean meat can help dental health? Thanks! Love your blog…you are great!

    1. Robyn says:

      Hi Carrie, the Weston A. Price Foundation is the place to learn about that. Dr. Price studied indigenous peoples across the globe who have no degenerative disease and they were all meat eaters. Clean meat. I don’t pin absolutely everything on the China Study and a plant based diet; I allow for the fact that bone broth, and organic or free range or wild-caught meat/poultry/fish may have value as a minor part of the diet.

  3. Mooreganics says:

    My hubby loves split pea soup, so I learned how to make it years ago! So yummy and filling. AND now that I have begun my sourdough bread adventure, we have something to sop up the bowl with. Looking forward to your followup re: the legumes, aka beans 🙂

  4. alanna says:

    I just found your site. LOVE it! Thank you Robyn. 🙂

  5. stephanie says:

    A little off the subject but 2 quick questions… first, I “liked” your GSG page on FB a long time ago and then today I also liked the HM Sauna page… Does it count that I already “Liked” your page? Also, I always buy my organic almonds raw, unpastureized from a farmer and because I buy them in bulk I freeze them. I have been freezing them after I sprout and dehydrate them.. is that the best way? Or is it better to freeze them and take as many as I am going to use for a month or so and after freezing then soak/sprout dehydrate?

    1. Robyn says:

      Stephanie, that’s perfect. Healthmate will create the drawing out of their new “likes” and then check to make sure the winner also “likes” GSG. And, how you’re doing it with your almonds is PERFECT!

  6. stephanie says:

    I want to win the SAUNA!! I liked your fb page a long time ago and today added the sauna page! I hope my previous “like” on your page is considered. Also, question about almonds… I buy organic, unpasturized, raw straight from a farmer. I order in bulk for a a great price ($6.50 lb including tax and shipping!!) and then I soak overnight and dehydrate. I then put them in my deep freeze. My question is, should I freeze them before sprouting so that my sprouted nut is never frozen? Does it compromise the sprouted nut nutritional value to freeze?

  7. Donna says:

    As we speak, I have it in my fridge right now! I enjoyed YOUR split pea soup yesterday and I will enjoy it again today for my lunch.

  8. Fred Lee says:

    Hi Robyn, I met you last Fall at a Legion hall in Toronto. I just turned 61, Chinese 6’2″ and rode tour du Canada last summer, you may not remember me. I got my Blendtec about 6 weeks ago and have been slurping and chewing my green smoothies. At first it was more than 50% fruit but now is about 70% greens. I’ve noticed some health benefits. I used to sprinkle* when I tinkled and thought I should ask my doctor about Flow Max, not anymore. It’s not exactly like a fire hose yet but getting there. After breakfast I would have a double flush “breaker” dump and then another one an hour later. I thought there is no way I had that much to eat and then realized it’s the kale cleaning out the nooks and crannies in my colon. A friend from church came over a few nights ago. She brought a dvd, “Forks over knives” which we watched together. I gave her a 10 oz. glass of green smoothie. My friend who is a RN told me there were immediate health benefits. She said her eyes used to hurt from contact lens use the next morning but no pain the next day and her facial skin was lot more smoother the next day as well. She didn’t want to spend what I spent ($468.00) on my Blendtec so she ordered a “NInja” online, think it was $99.00. Hope it works out for her.
    * Saw this on facebook from a sign in a hospital washroom; If you sprinkle when you tinkle, pls. be neat and wipe the seat.

  9. Donna says:

    Robyn, if you don’t have time to do dry beans etc. are canned ok as long as they are organic etc.?

  10. Kascia Lybbert says:

    Ive been making your split pea soup for my family on a regular basis for over 8 years. It is delicious and all five of my kids scarf it down. We enjoy eating it with some sourdough bread. Thanks so much. I have enjoyed the recipe for years and will for many more to come.

  11. DeLena says:

    Hi Robyn ! Been following you for years! You were the one who encouraged me so much to get that Blendtec and start drinking green smoothies! Thank you so much! I have also ordered your Protein Bone Broth and cannot WAIT to get it! About Legumes…Just wanted to say I can always tell a difference in my bowel movements when I DON’T eat legumes. I HAVE to eat them or I get constipated! Sorry, I know it’s a gross subject but it is TRUE! Legumes must be a part of my diet always! Thanks for the great free recipes!! Love and blessings to you!!

  12. John D Brown says:

    Hi Robyn! Thanks for this great topic. From the absence of Black Beluga Lentils developed by Timeless Foods in Ulm Montana, you may not know about this highest quality source of organic legumes and ancient grains. The book "Lentil Underground" is a great story for you and your followers.

  13. Cynthia Pike-Fuentes says:

    As much as we would love to follow a plant-based diet filled with legumes, two of our four family members have life-threatening allergies (anaphylactic shock) to several legumes including lentils, soybeans, peas and chickpeas. Seems a bit risky to even attempt to eat other types. Several doctors have told us that the incidence of legume allergies has doubled in recent years. If legumes are so healthy why must so many people avoid them?

  14. Love the information. Thanks. I might add that making one’s own bean curd, Tofu from soy beans at home is not really that hard. Great thing about that is that a byproduct of making the curd is Okara. Okara is a nutritional powerhouse, containing soluble and non-soluble fiber, protein, calcium and other minerals. It’s even more nutritious (because of the high fiber content) than soy milk or tofu. … Most tofu makers actually either throw it away or give it away as feed to farms – most commonly to pig farms in Japan.

    I have used it for making veggie burgers. It is a great base that can be combined with Organic Brown rice, onion, garlic, some chopped green veggie and some spices for a fantastic burger.

    Bon Appétit

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