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Legumes are the edible seeds of plants of the legume family (Papilionaceae) and the most common in our country are beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, fava beans; less well known are grass peas and lupins . Particulary important is soy, native of Asia and now cultivated and exploited in many countries. Together with grains,  legumes  are the food  used by man since ancient times. In recent decades, however, their consumption has dropped dramatically: the modern western diet, based on icreased use of animal protein and the pace of life today have guided consumer choices towards food for immediate consumption, which requires a short  preparation time.

A combination to be preserved:

The combination of legumes and cereals has ancient origins. Many civilizations and traditional cultures have developed their eating habits around this  association.Their combination leads to a complete and balanced dish, not only from the standpoint of protein but also carbohydrate and calorie intake. Pasta and beans, rice and peas, bread soup and legumes are unique dishes of good nutritional value and low cost.

They can replace meat

Historically, the use of legumes has been associated with times of famine or, more generally, to the poorer social classes. For this reason, in recent decades, their consumption has been reduced in favor of greater use of food of animal origin, particular meat. There is broad agreement in the scientific world in recommending a diet based on using less meat and alternating protein sources of plant origin. A dish based on legumes and cereals provides a complete nutritional intake and is a viable alternative to meat. An additinal point is the lower environmental impact of plant cultivation compared to the high cost of farming in terms of water and energy.

 How to eat legumes

To obtain the best results, legumes must be soaked for variable periods of time. For exemple, chickpeas need longer period of rehydration, up to 36 hours, so peel and pulp can cook evenly. For beans 12 hours are sufficient. Lentils and split peas do not require any soaking.

After checking for pebbles and grains of sand, legumes are placed into a large non-metallic container and covered with water at room temperature.

After soaking, drain the beans, place them in a pot with fresh water, also at room temperature, and bring to a simmer. From this moment, the second phase of cooking begins: boiling must be done slowly, so legumes will cook evenly and without peeling. Add salt only after cooking.

Once cooked, let them cool in their water and dry them only when needed.

The transition from the boiling temperature to room temperature in fact causes the rupture of the peel.

Another little precaution for a perfect puree is to press the legumes through a food mill and not the blender which  makes them sticky as it removes the starch.

– It is common knowledge that legumes cause flatulence and other digestive disorders. You can help in alleviating this problem  consuming them without peel.

– To avoid  digestive discomfort (bloating, swelling ..) it is advisable to follow the meal with tea made, for example: of 40% fennel seeds, 30% anise, 20% mint, 10% licorice.

– Contrary to popular belief, is not advisable to add baking soda to the water soaking or cooking, because this induces a more rapid loss of vitamin C.

The most commonly used legumes


.  Beans are contained in the pod and look different in shape, color and taste  depending on the species. The seeds can be eaten fresh, if collected during the summer, or dry. We know of more than 300 varieties, of which sixty edible. The most common are: the Mexican bean, small, black and round; Bean Spain, big, white and crushed; the borlotto, straight and flattened, yellowish green in color with bright red streaks; cannellino (curved, cylindrical shades and light green); the cowpea, small, and round, with a characteristic black spot, like a pupil. Beans are a food with recognized energy, also recommended for lowering cholesterol because they contain lecithin.


Currently ranks third in world consumption, after soy and beans.

 Chickpeas are canned, cooked or pre-cooked, also sold as flour or dried.. They are used in varius regional soups and in salads. Indispensable in the preparation of “Humus” from the Middle East.


It is a forgotten legume and almost disappeared from our tables. From centuries it has had great importance for human and animal consumption. The seeds provide a good source of starch and protein, and have limited percentage of fat.

Serving suggestions: soups, combined with barley or spelt, or in a salad along with  potatoes.


It might be the oldest cultivated legume consumed by humans. There are many types, some very valuable as lentils from Castelluccio, green Altamura, lentils of Ustica. It i salso sold in glass jarsand boxes, does not require soaking. It is served associated with soups and side dishes.


Like all legumes, soybeans grow in pods, which contain from 2 to 5 seeds, green, brown or yellow , and in Italy and their consumption is low.

And ‘scientifically proven that the consumption of soy helps to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, preventing atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.

Lecithin contained in soybean plays a tonic and restorative action of the central nervous system. Among the various kinds of soy you should choose quality “azuki” which is prepared and cooked like beans, while other types of soybean require soaking and cooking. Are derived from soy:  miso, tamari, tofu, tempeh and soy milk.


 Peas are low in calories when fresh, and are highly energetic when dry.

There are shelling peas and mangetout, their shape, as well as color change from one variety to another.

They are served in soups, creams, flans.


The lupine has always been considered  poor food. The seeds can be roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute or dry.

Despite the good nutritional value, lupins are no longer very valued.

In Italy are grown in some areas of Calabria, Lazio, Puglia, Campania and Tuscany.

Nutritional Value

The nutritional balance of legumes is excellent.

– Proteins. The legumes are first and foremost characterized by a particularly high protein content: on average 24%.

– Carbohydrates and lipids. Legumes are also rich in starch: when raw contain 50%, while the content of lipids is negligible.

– Vitamins and minerals. Legumes contain interesting amounts of vitamin B, especially some minerals: iron (lentils, beans, beans, peas), calcium (beans, peas), phosphorus (lentils, beans, peas) and potassium (beans, beans, peas).

– Fibers. They have finally a high content of dietary fiber. For their richness in fiber legumes are absorbed very slowly by our body.

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