Written by Jaiden Lahey - @nourished.by.j
Now I am here to show you how simple it is to prepare legumes from their dried form. Yes, that means for anyone who did not know, legumes do not grow in cans… Before that though, I think we need a little introduction for these tiny little legends of the plant world! Legumes, pulses and beans are an interchangeable term that describes the edible seeds from the plants of the legume family (Leguminous). Legumes include:
- Red kidney beans
- Black beans
- Mung beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Black-eyed beans
- Split peas
- Plus many more!
Legumes are nutrient-dense, high sources of plant protein, generally low in fat (excluding peanuts and soybeans), contain various essential minerals and are exceptionally rich in dietary fibre and phytochemicals. They can promote normal gut flora, lower blood cholesterol, and potentially protect against various chronic diseases. By having a low glycaemic index (GI), legumes can also be useful in the prevention and management of diabetes. As you can see, legumes are filled with all the good things which is why it is so essential we consume them on a regular basis.
WHY & HOW DO YOU PREPARE LEGUMES FOR COOKING?
Okay, so first thing's first, WHY do we need to prepare legumes prior to cooking?
1. ‘ANTI-NUTRITIONAL FACTORS’ which are various phytochemicals within the legume itself. These anti-nutrients such as protease inhibitors, α-amylase inhibitors, phytic acid, lectins and saponins can potentially reduce the digestibility and bioavailability of essential components of legumes. Soaking and cooking, as well as other forms of processing reduce the antinutrients thus making those components available for our bodies to absorb and utilise!
2. It brings the cooking time down significantly and uncooked/undercooked legumes can cause flatulence (gas) and bloating.
So now, you know why it is essential to prepare legumes, here is how we actually do it:
1. Soak your legumes in cold water for a minimum of 4-5 hours but preferably overnight. They will expand in the container by soaking up the water, so cover them significantly.
2. When you are ready to cook with them, rinse thoroughly and discard the soaking water.
3. Place them in a pot and boil for at least 10 minutes, you will notice a froth form on the surface, discard it and turn down to a simmer.
4. Depending on the size of the legume will really depend on how long you need to boil them for. For red kidney beans (one of the larger forms of legumes), it is about 30 minutes, so roughly 20-30 minutes for each form.
5. Discard this water, rinse thoroughly then add them to your cooking or store them in the fridge for later use.
*lentils are the one legume that does not require soaking prior to cooking.
The convenience of canned legumes makes life that little bit easier to incorporate a high plant-based protein source in a world of busy. When you’re running low for time or haven’t even begun to think of lunch that day let alone dinner… Canned beans come to the rescue, plus they’re cheap! However, not as cheap as buying dry legumes, especially in bulk. The canning process itself, although necessary for health and safety for storing canned goods for a long period of time unfortunately means we kill off all known micro-organisms in the process . Yes, this also means our beneficial little gut bugs that we have heard so much about! Therefore, cooking with dried legumes, your microbiome will gain probiotics as well as the prebiotics (mixture of indigestible oligosaccharides) that feed our little friends.
So, from my perspective, I try to utilise dry legumes when I can and when I remember to soak them in time. I use canned legumes for convenience, I have a few varieties stored in my pantry for when I’m short for time. When buying canned, try to buy ‘no added sodium’ and organic where possible. I recommend at least trying to cook with dried legumes, even just starting with lentils! They are very quick to cook with, don’t actually require soaking, although will need a thorough rinse before.
To sum it up, legumes are a key source of nutrients that are definitely necessary in a healthy balanced diet. Please go out and do some more research about the wonders of legumes, get creative with recipes and hopefully you’ll come to love legumes as much as I do!