What the heck are legumes? And why can't you just say "beans"?
Well, the word legumes first appeared in English around the year 1600, and comes from the Latin verb "legere" — which means to pick a crop. And what a crop it is.
Legumes do include beans — but they’re much more than that. Among the thousands of types, favorites include butter, pinto, lima, navy, black-eyed, cranberry, cannellini, red kidney, adzuki, black, and soya beans; chickpeas; peas and split peas; and lentils.
When they're dried, they are called pulses (not because they're good for your heart, though they are).
If they're ground, they produce gluten-free flour for pastas, falafels, and breads.
They're an excellent source of plant protein (especially chickpeas, split peas, and lentils) and provide many other nutrients, including iron and zinc.
Their high fiber content also makes them healthy for the heart and gastrointestinal system (even if you can get a little gassy).
Unfortunately, pop-nutritionists say some of legumes' phytochemicals — specifically lectins, phytates and tannins — interfere with digestion and block absorption of nutrients.
But that's not the case if the legumes are soaked, cooked, boiled, sprouted, or fermented. Those techniques substantially reduce the dose of those anti-nutrients and increase the bioavailability of legumes' highly beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Boiling them for 10 minutes does the trick. Canned beans need to be sufficiently heated as well.
And replacing meat with legumes several times a week can help control blood sugar levels, reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, and increase your lifespan.