Benefits of Legumes

by Shelly Morgan

About Shelly Morgan

Shelly Morgan has been writing and editing for over 25 years for various medical and scientific publications. Although she began her professional career in pharmacological research, Morgan turned to patent law where she specialized in prosecuting patents for medical devices. She also writes about renal disease and hypertension for several nonprofits aimed at educating and supporting kidney patients.



Legumes include dried peas, lentils and every variety of dried bean, from the tiny adzuki bean to the huge fava bean. They have long made up part of the human diet, and caches of lentils have even been found in Egyptian tombs. Whether you buy them canned or purchase them in bulk, they store easily and have a long shelf life. Legumes provide plenty of health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet.


Legumes serve as a rich source of protein and can take the place of meat in your diet, having many of the benefits of meat but none of the drawbacks. Legumes are high in protein, low in cholesterol and have almost no fat. For example, 1 cup of cooked lentils has 17.86g of protein and only 0.75g of fat. Cooked lentils can be combined with egg, breadcrumbs, spices and sauteed diced onion to create a tasty meatloaf. Other additions can be finely sliced carrot, celery and mushroom.


Legumes are high in iron, potassium and magnesium. For example, a cup of cooked unsalted lentils have 6.59 milligrams of iron, 71 milligrams of magnesium and 731 milligrams of potassium. By way of comparison, the recommended daily allowances of iron and magnesium for adult women are 18 milligrams and 320 milligrams, respectively. The RDA for potassium is 4,700 milligrams for both adult men and women. Other types of legumes have comparable amounts of these minerals.


Lentils are also incredibly versatile and easy to cook. They can be used in everything from Indian dal, to Middle Eastern falafel and hummus, to Western chilis, Italian pasta fazioli and many varieties of soups and stews. While some legumes benefit from soaking before cookig, this step is not necessary for lentils and dried peas. In a pinch, canned chickpeas or other canned legumes can be used in recipes or to provide a shot of protein to salads.

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