Brazil is the world’s largest grower and consumer of beans. Beans are part of the legume family of foods which along with beans include peas, lentils, peanuts and soybeans. Legumes are a low cost, super healthy addition to meals. Considered super foods because of the nutrition benefits, legumes provide both protein and iron making them an excellent substitute for meat. The also contain high amounts of fiber, folate, manganese, magnesium, copper and potassium.
Legumes are a vegetable-based protein and should be served with a whole grain, such as rice, to create a complete protein. Legumes help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. They are also very hearty and give you a feeling of fullness, so you are less likely to overeat.
A plant that grows in an edible pod is a “Legume”. Legumes are readily available in bulk packaging and cans at grocery stores year-round. Dry packaged legumes are the least expensive way to go, but require more time to prepare. If you are on a tight schedule, cooked and canned varieties save time in the kitchen. To remove excess salt drain canned legumes and rinse in water for at least one minute.
Popular legumes include:
- Black Beans- Sometimes called turtle beans; black beans have a mild, earthy flavor and soft texture. Black beans are commonly used in Latin and Southwestern soups, casseroles, stews, dips and sauces.
- Kidney & Red Beans – Kidney and red beans have a robust, full-bodied flavor and soft texture. They are often used in chili and salads, and can be paired with rice to make a complete meal.
- White Beans- White beans have a mild, delicate flavor and tend to absorb the flavors of other foods in recipes. White beans are great in casseroles, chili and baked beans.
- Garbanzo – Also known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans have a nutty taste and buttery texture. They are the main ingredient in hummus and are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
- Lentils – Lentils have an earthy flavor and are used in soups and stews.
- Peas – The versatile pea has a sweet taste and many uses including soups, pot pies, salads and casseroles. Peas also make a fun finger food for little ones.
- Soybeans – Soybeans are used in everything from oil to milk. Their mild flavor is easily enhanced by adding seasonings. Edamame, which is a whole soybean that is steamed in the pod, is a tasty side dish or snack. Soybeans are also the main ingredient in tofu and soy milk.
- Lima Beans – Lima beans have a smooth and creamy texture and a sweet taste. Combine them with red peppers and corn to make succotash, or add them to soups and casseroles.
- Peanuts – In addition to the infamous peanut butter and jelly sandwich, raw peanuts taste good on their own and in Asian recipes.