Nutritional properties of legumes

In poor and dry regions, legumes have been a great option with which to fill pots. Paradoxes of life, as has happened with so many other foods traditionally relegated to the lower classes, legumes have also turned out to be a “poor” food rich in beneficial nutrients. Health organizations recommend  including them regularly in the diet  because their consumption has been shown to help prevent  obesity ,  heart ailments  and diseases such as  diabetes. They are also an ideal source of protein, particularly in regions where meat and dairy are not physically or economically accessible. They are also an almost essential food in flexivegetarian, vegetarian or vegan diets , options that are gaining more and more followers. And it is still an affordable food and more if you are not going to buy a variety that is grown in the ends of the Earth. Cervantes already wrote in El Quijote that “in all houses they cook beans, and in mine they cook beans”, which already indicated the low price of this food. It is clear, then, that it is a good place and time for these seeds, have we discovered what the nutritional properties of legumes are ? In this task the dietitians-nutritionists ofAlimmenta , which have recently been collecting its most remarkable features.

Properties of lentils

What do lentils give us ? Nutritionist  Vanesa Rus explains that lentils are one of the best known and most widely used legumes in our country today, and not because they are a fad. The first signs of its cultivation would have been found in the area of ​​Israel about 7000-9000 years ago, constituting one of the first plants to be cultivated.

There are different types. According to their size, ordered from largest to smallest, we have: Ermine blonde, Castilian blonde or queen (the variety that is most consumed in Spain), pardina, verdina and beluga or caviar lentil (small, rounded and black, they owe their name to its external resemblance to caviar). There are other varieties from other countries such as India (Uraddad), Verde du Puy (France), Crimson (Turkish), Red Chief (Egypt).

Nutritionally it is a food rich in carbohydrates . Its vegetable proteins (24g per 100g of dry lentils), although in good quantity, are incomplete, since they are deficient in methionine (essential amino acid). However, if lentils are combined with cereals such as rice or dried fruits such as walnuts (it is not necessary in the same meal), they become proteins of high biological value, comparable to those provided by foods of animal origin. The fiber contribution (13%), although important, is lower than that of other legumes such as white beans. They are a source of iron, zinc, magnesium, sodium, potassium, selenium, calcium and vitamins, especially of the B complex: such as B2, B3, B6, B9 (folic acid), vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C (remember to add a citrus fruit to aid absorption). They can be used in Mediterranean cuisine in many different ways: Sprouts, in salads, stewed in stews and soups, in purees, their flour in cakes …


If it gives you gastrointestinal discomfort, it is better to use them without skin, crushed and passed through the food processor, thus removing most of the fiber present in the lentil.

To cook it you can buy it raw, let it soak for 4 to 12 hours and boil it, the time depends on the variety, but approximately 45 minutes (if you do it in a pressure cooker, the time is reduced to about 10-15 minutes). And they will be ready to make the dish you want! You can also use glass jar lentils, but remember to rinse it in water before using.

Nutritional properties of beans

Alimmenta nutritionist Carme Ferrer tells us about broad beans, also known as kidney beans. These are legumes from the spring season and some of the first that man began to consume about 4300 years ago. It was cultivated by the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks and in fact, the custom that has always existed of the Roscón de Reyes, we have inherited it from the Romans and it was they who devised putting a  bean  inside the roscón.

Thanks to its easy cultivation and conservation, economic price, richness in protein and its excellent nutritional properties, it was the basic sustenance of many families with few resources of yesteryear.

We can find fresh, dried, canned or frozen beans. But unlike lentils, chickpeas and beans, like peas, they have the advantage that they can be eaten raw, benefiting from their sweet taste and keeping all their nutritional properties intact. The very tender beans with pods can be consumed as if they were green beans. Desgranadas are ideal to eat them raw in an omelette, sautéed, steamed, sautéed, in stew, etc. The largest are usually prepared boiled because they have tougher skin and are delicious in stews, soups, purees, stews… etc.

Young beans have a high water content, they provide us with few calories, carbohydrates in the form of starch, slow assimilation, and proteins, especially rich in essential sulfur amino acids. In addition, they are rich in B vitamins, important for the functioning of the nervous system, and in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and copper, elementals for bone development and maintenance, muscle contraction and the nervous system.

On the other hand, like the rest of legumes, they are rich in fiber, among which indigestible oligosaccharides such as raffinose and stachyose stand out, which cause flatulence. To avoid these gases, there is the method of soaking 12 hours before cooking and a trick to cook them: add aromatic herbs such as fennel, mint or cumin to the cooking water.

Take advantage of this spring to incorporate this seasonal legume into your dishes!

Nutritional properties of lupins

The dietitian-nutritionist Aina Huguet , explains that the white lupine or Lupinus albus, is considered by the FAO a typical legume of the Mediterranean. It is characterized by its rounded and flattened shape, yellowish color and bitter taste, due to its variable alkaloid content.

In Spain we consume lupine mainly as an aperitif, the most common is to find them in canned brine or pickles. Although they can also be found raw and like any other legume, it is perfect to consume in soups, stews, salads, patés or even desserts. In industry, lupine is used as an additive to enrich cereal-based flours, both for human and animal consumption, this is due to its high protein content, which can reach up to 40%.


The process of making raw lupine is long, but not laborious. In order to remove its bitterness, the lupine should be soaked in cold water for about 24 hours. Once these 24 hours have passed, put the lupins in a pot with water and salt until they soften. For the next 7-10 days introduce them in water and salt. You see changing the water and adding sea salt, several times a day, until the lupine has the bitter taste that you personally like.

At the nutritional level, lupine stands out for its high concentration of unsaturated fats, approximately 9.74 g per 100g of product. Considered beneficial fats for health. Lupine, along with legumes such as soybeans, is rich in vegetable proteins, specifically it contains 36.7 g of protein for every 100g of product. In turn, it also provides us with a large amount of fiber, approximately 18.9 g of fiber for every 100g of product. As well as vitamins of group B and E and minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium in remarkable quantities.

In this way, it can be concluded that lupine is a perfect legume to introduce both as a healthy appetizer, always desalting it before consuming it , as in soups, stews or fresh salads for the summer.

Nutritional properties of chickpeas

Nutritionist Yaiza Molina notes that chickpea is a legume rich in vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, iron and zinc. It contains 19% protein and its profile is complete. This means that it contains all the essential amino acids (those that our body cannot synthesize on its own, so they must be obtained from the diet).

Although its consumption is usually associated with cooked dishes with meat or stir-fries, there are many less caloric options to enjoy them: in the form of homemade burgers with vegetables, hummus accompanied by vegetables, in creams or purees, or as part of salads . We can even have them as a snack, you just have to cook them and bake them afterwards to make them crisp.

Unlike other legumes, to cook chickpeas you have to add them to the water when it is already boiling.

From chickpea we can also obtain its flour, which can be an alternative in gluten-free diets or as an egg substitute to make a vegan omelette.

Nutritional properties of peanuts

Are peanuts legumes or nuts? Adriana Oroz explains that although most people think that they are nuts, in reality, by their nature they belong to the group of legumes. But it is true that due to their nutritional composition, as they contain more fat than most legumes, they are considered nuts.

Its main nutrient is fat (almost 50%), highlighting the content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that makes it a highly recommended food to improve blood cholesterol levels. Source of vegetable protein (30%), fiber, antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamins such as B3 or niacin and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Special care must be taken when introducing peanuts into children’s food, since peanuts are one of the foods that most frequently cause allergic reactions.


They are one of the most used snacks or appetizers between meals. In addition, it can now also be found in the form of peanut butter (also known as peanut butter), very versatile to combine with fruit, yogurt or even toast or mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks. The Banana Peanut Butter Snack never disappoints! You can also include it as a substitute for oil, in some wok-type preparation or marinated meat with soy sauce to give it more flavor and creaminess.

The consumption of raw or roasted peanuts is always recommended as opposed to fried and salted ones. In the case of consuming them in the form of a cream, it is always advisable to look at the composition table of the same to ensure that it does not have any added fat or sugar. My best advice? Make your own homemade peanut butter . Crush raw peanuts, peel them and crush them well in the mincer until a kind of granulated powder is left. You can add some water to achieve a smooth cream consistency.

Nutritional properties of red lentils

Do you know the red lentils ?. If legumes tend to give you digestive problems, these can be a good alternative. The nutritionist Laia Gómez explains that red lentils are similar to the typical lentils that we usually consume but with a red-orange color that differentiates them.

As the other lentils provides n  minerals like iron, zinc, phosphorus and manganese selenium, plus vitamins of group B such as thiamine and folic acid. They are also a good source of vegetable protein, but you should combine s  grain for the full length protein , since they are deficient in an essential amino acid: methionine. So besides a plate of lentils think that at some point in the day  is recommended to eat a cereal such as bread, rice or pasta to complete the protein.

Besides its color it also has very interesting special characteristics. They are devoid of the skin, consequently they cause less gas and will be of great help for those people who have digestive problems with legumes.

Another advantage for our busy lives is that they do not need soaking and only with 20 minutes of cooking you will have them litas to eat.

Who said that eating legumes is difficult? With red lentils you have it easier both to cook and  digest them. A n Mate i  to try them out ! 


Nutritional properties of white beans

Sara Martínez explains that white beans, also known as kidney beans, are one of the most popular legumes in our country. They belong to a large family, which owned more than 300 varieties of beans,  including white, red, black, tan and pints . Many varieties come from America, although in Spain we have 3 varieties of beans with Designation of Origin: the Faba de Asturias, the Beans from El Barco de Ávila and the Bañeza de León. In the Basque Country we also find Gernika and Tolosa.

Versatile where they exist, they are the protagonists of stews, stews or salads. Their soft texture makes them irresistible. Its nutritional properties are not short, they are a great source of fiber (almost 20%), proteins (more than 22g per 100g of dry white beans) and vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
If you want to cook them yourself, you just have to let them soak for 12 hours and cover them with triple water. Drain them and run them under cold water to remove the fibers that they loose during soaking. Put them on a slow and continuous heat with the water or cold broth without salt (so as not to harden them) and add the rest of the ingredients. 
If you are short of time you always have the option of opting for the fast version: the canned food in the glass jar, you just have to rinse them in water and ready to eat!

Nutritional properties of soy

One of the legumes that we have most recently incorporated into our diet is soy. Jessica Hierro explains that soy is a legume whose consumption is mainly concentrated in Asia, although in recent years it has become a very popular food in Europe. There are more than 3000 varieties of soybeans and it is a legume with very interesting nutritional properties.

Its high content of proteins of high biological value stands out, 36%. It is a complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids. On the other hand, it has 18% fat, mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, that is, healthy fats and does not contain cholesterol, since it is a food of plant origin. It has 15% fiber, which is a high contribution.


If we talk about its mineral content, we mainly find phosphorus, potassium and calcium, in fact, it is the legume with the highest calcium content, and among its vitamins are carotenoids (precursors of vitamin A), vitamin E and vitamins of group B .

Therefore, soy as a whole is a very complete food and this nutritional wealth makes it one of the star foods in vegetarian nutrition.

There is a wide variety of products derived from soy such as tofu, tempeh, textured soy, bean sprouts, soy drink or yogurt, soy sauce, miso, edamame, hamburgers, sausages or soy sausages among others. But be careful because, as well as soy, I have commented that it is a very complete and recommended food for consumption, the by-products that are made from it may not be.

I am referring, for example, to soy drinks, shakes or yogurts, since most of them tend to have a high content of added sugars, or soy prepared or precooked such as hamburgers, sausages or croquettes since, among their ingredients, there may be less healthy fats, a high salt content, additives to enhance the flavor or be made with refined cereals. Therefore, do not assume that a product made with soy is already healthy. You should read and analyze its ingredient list which will give you an idea of ​​whether or not the product is worth it.


And if we talk about cooking with soy, we can prepare options as simple as edamame. To do this, you just have to cook the soybean pods in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, strain and season with spices, salt or lemon. Also a delicious textured soy bolognese (in place of minced meat), a tofu burger with oatmeal and vegetables or a salad with tofu, previously marinated by ourselves.

Without a doubt, soy is a very interesting food to introduce into our diet due to its nutritional value and its versatility in the kitchen. Do you dare to try it?

Nutritional properties of peas

Marisa Burgos warns us that although peas look like vegetables, they are legumes, therefore, their benefits are similar. It provides a good amount of fiber, so it helps to maintain a good intestinal transit and a quality intestinal microbiota. Among the nutritional properties of this legume we find vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and beta-carotenes that are essential antioxidants to delay aging and prevent chronic inflammatory diseases, in addition to fulfilling basic functions in the body such as the regulation of immunity, bone health and ocular.

Its protein content is not very high compared to other legumes since it is approximately 5%, a fact that is not a problem in the western diet, where the consumption of this nutrient is usually excessive.

Its cultivation and consumption is mainly focused on spring, which is when they are in their optimal state of maturity. They can be eaten fresh or frozen, without their nutritional value being affected. And they are very versatile since you can prepare an infinity of dishes, suitable for all members of the house.

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