Dietitians Dish: Legumes offer great amount of fiber

June 21, 2010 at 1:21 a.m.
Updated June 22, 2010 at 1:22 a.m.

Jami Martin

Jami Martin

By Jami Martin

What are legumes? They are seeds that dry in their pod. Legumes include beans (kidney, pinto, Lima, cannellini, black), lentils, peas (chickpeas, black-eyed peas, purplehull peas/cow peas) and nuts. Some may refer to them as dried beans, which include canned, frozen or cooked bean varieties.

In 2005, United States Department of Agriculture-Dietary Guidelines included beans as a subgroup of vegetables. It is recommended that three cups per week of legumes be included to assist in meeting total recommended vegetable servings. In addition, beans may be used as a lean protein source or meat substitute. In this case, beans fall into a subgroup of the meat group called dried beans and peas, as a plant-based protein. Legumes are rich in nutrients, offering the flexibility to fall into either category.

Beans are high in protein, iron, folate, potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, complex carbohydrate, while having no cholesterol, low in sodium, fat, saturated fat and calories. They are rich in phytonutrients and are gluten-free.

Legumes offer a great amount of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which can help in the management of weight, diabetes, lowering cholesterol and colon health.

Take note: Beans do not have to be cooked from scratch, especially when using them in a pinch. You can find beans both canned and in the freezer sections of your grocery store. Look for canned beans with no added salt if you are monitoring your sodium intake for hypertension, heart failure, heart disease or general health. Canned-food items can be drained and rinsed to remove about 40 percent of their sodium if you are unable to find canned goods labeled "no salt added."

Do you follow a diet based on exchange lists, such as in the diabetic or weight management plans? A -cup serving of legumes counts as one starch or carbohydrate choice and one lean meat choice.

Here is a resource for legume recipes -, so you can be on your way to meeting your 3 cups per week.

Jami Martin is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. Send questions or comments to



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