Vegan Protein Source: Legumes

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This is the protein group that most people think of as a main source for vegans, with good reason – beans are not only protein dense, they’re harty, which gives food that substantial ‘filling’ feel to it. However, like most ingredients, legumes can become so many different foods.

Chickpeas are by far one of the most versatile, becoming not only traditional foods like hummus and falafels (meatballs), but also as breadcrumbs, pasta, chickpea flour, and so much more, plus how good they are just cooked various ways themselves (they’re so easy to add to almost any recipe: chickpeas and stir fry, chickpeas and baked sweet potato [personal fav], chickpeas and pasta, chickpeas stuffed in a pita, etc.)

However, the same is true for many other legumes as well. Be sure to check out the Pea Pesto Pasta Sauce recipe we made recently and keep an eye out for fancy French black lentils that are excellent on salads.

It comes as a surprise to most people that legumes are actually seeds! Yep – types of seeds that grow in pods are referred to as legumes – things like peas, beans, and lentils. Peanuts are also in the legume group; they’re not actually a nut.

Not only are legumes easy to cook with and extremely diverse (there are dozens of varieties), they’re also extremely nutritious. A joint study between Sweeden, Greece, Japan and Australia found that eating legumes regularly can lengthen the lifespan of older individuals. The exact amount was determined to be an additional 7-8% increase in lifespan for each 20 g serving of beans daily (therefore a 40 g serving would yield a 14-16% increase in lifespan and so on). [Source: US National Library of Medicine, Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities.]

Regularly consuming legumes may also help with weight control, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and aid with blood pressure control. [Source: US National Library of Medicine, Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake.]

Tips for Eating Legumes

Here are a few great ways to eat legumes:

  • Chili
  • Look for legume pasta (lentil, chickpea, etc.)
  • Topped on a salad
  • Blended into hummus (then topped onto a salad or added to a sandwich)
  • Mashed into a burger patty
  • As a feature dish (ex. peas, black eyed peas, baked beans, whole edamame appetizer bowl)
  • Cooked into a soup (ex. black bean soup, lentil soup)

Warnings About Legumes

  • Raw kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that can make you severely sick (severe vomiting). Supposedly as few as four or five raw kidney beans can cause this reaction. In order to remove the toxin and prevent this from happening, kidney beans must be soaked for several hours and boiled (not simmered – full rolling boil) for 10 minutes before consuming.
  • Lima beans contain cyanide and also must be fully cooked before consuming to render them safe.
    [Source: HuffPost: 7 Everyday Foods That Just Happen to be Poisonous.]

In-Depth Legume Guides

Click on a legume below to learn more about it, including suggestions for ways to cook and eat each one. (Check back often, more will be added soon!)