The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization praises Peas, Beans, & Lentils–collectively called “pulses” in much of the world, but “legumes” in the United States. World Pulses Day, on February 10, encourages their use.
Important for food security, varieties of legumes grow around the world. They fix nitrogen into the soil benefiting themselves and, when intercropped, other food plants. Easily grown and relatively cheap, they store easily without refrigeration.
As a premier source of protein–low in fat, and with no cholesterol–they excel, and promote heart health. The carbohydrates in legumes are absorbed slowly making them a good choice as a steady source of energy. Their fiber keeps the bowels regular and dilutes toxins in the body helping ward off cancer. Legumes are excellent sources of B vitamins (including folate) and minerals (iron, potassium, selenium).
There are many ways to enjoy beans: in soups, salads, main dishes, burgers, dips, and pâtés. In America, people use canned beans for convenience, but using fresh, in season, or dry beans is traditional and economical. Make a comforting pot of warm vegetable-bean soup today!
Soak dry beans overnight, drain, rinse, then cook with water to cover until they are very soft. If not part of your diet now, eat small portions two or three times a week until your system learns to handle them. Start with the quicker-cooking split peas and lentils, which do not require presoaking and cook in 45 minutes or so.
Beans are often cooked with kombu (a seaweed), and ground seeds such as caraway, fenugreek, celery, fennel. Add lemon juice (vitamin C) to optimize iron absorption. Cook with onions, garlic, and leafy greens. Flavor with herbs and spices. Add salt at the end of cooking.
Soybeans are highest in protein. They also require the longest cooking time. It is easier to use soy as soymilk, tofu, or tempeh.