What legumes have in common
Legumes grow from the carpel, the female reproductive part of a plant. The fruit of a legume is found inside a pod that can be split on both sides. However, there are some foods that grow inside pods that are not legumes.
Grain legumes are cultivated for their seeds. The seeds are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses. Grain legumes include beans, lentils, lupins, peas, and peanuts.
Legumes are a significant source of protein, dietary fiber, carbohydrates and dietary minerals; for example, a 100 gram serving of cooked chickpeas contains 18 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for protein, 30 percent DV for dietary fiber, 43 percent DV for folate and 52 percent DV for manganese. Like other plant-based foods, pulses contain no cholesterol and little fat or sodium.
Legumes are also an excellent source of resistant starch which is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine to produce short-chain fatty acids (such as butyrate) used by intestinal cells for food energy.
Preliminary studies in humans include the potential for regular consumption of legumes in a vegetarian diet to affect metabolic syndrome. There is evidence that a portion of pulses (roughly one cup daily) in a diet may help lower blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol levels, though there is a concern about the quality of the supporting data.
FAO recognizes 11 primary pulses.
- Dry beans (Phaseolus spp. including several species now in Vigna)
- Kidney bean, navy bean, pinto bean, haricot bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
- Lima bean, butter bean (Phaseolus lunatus)
- Adzuki bean, azuki bean (Vigna angularis)
- Mung bean, golden gram, green gram (Vigna radiata)
- Black gram, urad (Vigna mungo)
- Scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
- Ricebean (Vigna umbellata)
- Moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia)
- Tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius)
- Dry broad beans (Vicia faba)
- Horse bean (Vicia faba equina)
- Broad bean (Vicia faba)
- Field bean (Vicia faba)
- Dry peas (Pisum spp.)
- Garden pea (Pisum sativum var. sativum)
- Protein pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense)
- Chickpea, garbanzo, Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum)
- Dry cowpea, black-eyed pea, blackeye bean (Vigna unguiculata )
- Pigeon pea, Arhar/Toor, cajan pea, Congo bean, gandules (Cajanus cajan)
- Lentil (Lens culinaris)
- Bambara groundnut, earth pea (Vigna subterranea)
- Vetch, common vetch (Vicia sativa)
- Lupins (Lupinus spp.)
- Minor pulses, including:
- Lablab, hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus)
- Jack bean (Canavalia ensiformis), sword bean (Canavalia gladiata)
- Winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)
- Velvet bean, cowitch (Mucuna pruriens var. utilis)
- Yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus)
India imports (buys from other countries) the most legumes. This may be because a lot of Indians follow the religion of Hinduism, which does not approve of people eating meat. Legumes are a cheap and plentiful source of food in a country where around 22% of the population are in poverty. The top four producers and exporters (selling to other countries) of legumes are:
The USA uses legumes for a variety of reasons, and is the highest producer. It uses soybeans to feed cattle and make vegetable oil. Peanuts are a popular snack food in the USA and these are also a type of legume.
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Legume Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.