October 31, 2011 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

The best plant source of protein, legumes are edible seeds enclosed in pods. Legumes come in a myriad of forms. Most familiar to Americans, are fresh or dried beans and peas. Beans are a help to people with diabetes. Because these nutritious seeds are digested slowly, they cause a gentle rise in blood glucose. As a result, less insulin is required to control after meal blood glucose.

Although the protein in most legumes is incomplete, this deficiency can be easily overcome by serving them with rice, grains, nuts, or a small amount of poultry, fish, egg white, or yogurt.

Serving suggestions: Legumes absorb the flavors of the foods they’re cooked with, thus making them a versatile ingredient for casseroles, soups, stews, and salads. They readily take up the flavors of herbs and spices, garlic and onions, soy sauce, vinegar, and salad dressings.

  • It is easy to combine legumes with grains. Try dishes such as tabbouleh with pinto beans, lentil and rice soup, marinated chick-peas in a pita pocket, Cuban-style black beans and rice, tuna and lentil salad on rye bread, bean and barley soup, Boston baked beans with brown bread, or bean burritos on corn tortillas. Any cooked legumes can be formed into patties for vegetarian “burgers” and served on whole wheat buns, while chili and chili-like legume stew can be served on a crisp roll, like a sloppy joe.
  • Cook beans, lentils, and peas in hearty baked casseroles or on the stovetop. Use cooked beans in combination with vegetables such as eggplant, bell peppers, escarole, potatoes, or green beans. Or, try a casserole or skillet dish of beans with pasta, rice, bulgur or kasha. Experiment with Mexican-style seasoning, Italian herbs or Indian spices.
  • Legume salads – served warm, room temperature or chilled, are a delicious way to enjoy legumes in warm weather. A light coating of a vinaigrette dressing, added while the beans are still warm, absorb the flavors of the dressing.
  • Combine beans or lentils with fresh greens, herbs, and raw vegetables, and / or pasta, cooked vegetables, and meat. You can also prepare some of these interesting salad combinations: white beans and tuna with fresh dill; chick- peas with lemon juice, cumin, and ground coriander; lentils and arugula or watercress; kidney beans with fresh snap beans; back-eyed peas with corn kernels, diced carrots, and celery.
  • Black beans, lentils and split peas are marvelous soup ingredients. Cook any kind of legumes in broth, adding herbs and chopped vegetables. Leave the ingredients whole, or puree all or some of the solids for a thick, creamy soup.
  • Mashed mild-flavored beans are a good stand-in for cream cheese or sour cream in dips; a thick bean dip can be transformed into sandwich spread. Blend hand-mashed or pureed kidney beans or lentils with salsa, chopped tomatoes, and a little Monterey Jack cheese; combine white beans with tuna and lemon juice, chick-peas with garlic and parsley, or kidney beans with pureed roasted garlic. 

Reference: The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, by Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the Editors of the University of California at Berkley Wellness Letter, pg. 348.


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