Legumes include beans, soybeans, lentils, peas and peanuts. This class of food consists of plants with pods that produce fleshy seeds. Most legumes provide many of the important nutrients that your body needs. Legumes have a relatively low glycemic index and are good sources of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, folate and iron. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to meat, legumes are a popular choice and very versatile.
Hundreds of varieties of beans exist and offer many benefits to your body. Some of the common beans eaten include adzuki beans, lima beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and pinto beans. Although beans vary in size, color and shape, they share many of the same nutritional values. Beans are rich sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. One-half cup of pinto beans, for example, provides 32 percent of daily recommended fiber, along with very little fat and sodium and no cholesterol. Common ways to incorporate beans into your diet include soups, salads, chili, stews and rice dishes.
The most common edible peas include green peas, snap peas and snow peas. Peas are essentially green beans, and the nutritional value of peas is similar to beans. Garden peas, for example, provide vitamins A and C, several B-vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and slowly-digested carbohydrates. Common ways to enjoy peas are in a puree, soup or summer salad. Peas are an excellent and heart-healthy source of soluble fiber. One hundred grams of dried mature peas provides 330 calories and16.7 grams of dietary fiber, which is more than one-half of the recommended daily value of fiber for an adult woman.
Peanuts are an often-overlooked legume. While most nuts grow on trees, peanuts grow underground and in pods like other legumes. Although peanuts are a type of legume, their nutritional value resembles tree nuts more than other legumes. Peanuts are a source of protein, unsaturated fats, niacin, fiber and phytosterols. The latter may help to lower your blood cholesterol. A 1 ounce serving of raw peanuts contains 161 calories, 7.3 grams of protein, 3.26 milligrams of niacin, 2.4 grams of fiber and 1.3 milligrams of iron, as well as a variety of other nutrients and antioxidants. Peanuts are commonly eaten raw, roasted or as toppings in salads.
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