Particularly nutritious, easy-to-buy, easy-to-cook and very easy-to-eat nutritious foods are legumes:
Foods such as beans and lentils are known as legumes. These foods are good sources of protein and fibre, and are used in many different styles of cooking. You can find fresh, canned, frozen, or dried versions of many legumes.
As nitrogen-fixers, legumes are a great crop for farmers because of their ability to enrich soil fertility by depositing nitrogen in the soil. In addition to this service to the environment, legumes provide an important source of protein. And when they are cooked and served up with the right spices, they make a delicious meal.
Take a look at five nutritious legumes that are also helping the environment:
1. Black Bean: Black beans are a great source of protein and fibre. And they’re low in fat and sodium, too. A one-cup serving size of black beans has nearly 15 grams of both protein and fibre, which is equivalent to about 55g of chicken. Black beans are usually inexpensive, can be bought either dried or canned, and are easy to store.
Black Bean in Action: Not only do rice and beans make a healthy and delicious meal, but they also create something called a complete protein. Since rice contains low levels of essential amino acids, and dry beans contain those essential amino acids, when paired together they create all the nine amino acids necessary to form a complete protein.
2. Lentil: Lentils come in a wide variety of colors: black, yellow, orange, green, red, and brown. They originated in Central Asia and are used in various cuisines, including Indian, Turkish, and Syrian, among others. One serving—or one cup—of lentils contains 18 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat! They have no cholesterol, are low in salt, and are filled with tons of nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, C, K, E, and Riboflavin.
Lentils can be cooked or sprouted.
3. Chickpea: Also known as a garbanzo beans, one cup of chickpeas provides nearly 50 percent of the daily-recommended amount of fibre. In addition, chickpeas contain antioxidants that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. They originated in the Middle East and were first cultivated around 3000 B.C.E. Today, they are used in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
Chickpea in Action: It generally takes about 100 days for chickpeas to reach harvest time. When planting chickpea seeds, it is best to grow them near other crops like potatoes, cucumbers, corn, and strawberries. Similar to lentils, chickpea plants work with microorganisms in the soil to provide nitrogen-fixing bacteria and help other surrounding crops grow. Chickpeas can be eaten cooked or sprouted.
4. Mung Bean: Mung beans are typically known as bean sprouts. The mung bean is closely related to the adzuki bean. Usually it is the sprout that is usually eaten, but one can use both the sprout and the whole bean.
Mung Bean in Action: Although mung beans have great nutritional benefits (they are low in both fat and calories and contain dietary fibre and vitamins A and K), they are also used for medicinal reasons. In China, mung beans are used to treat heat rash, heatstroke, food poisoning, mumps, and skin conditions, including boils and burns.
5. Peanut: Unlike other legumes that grow on plants, and other nuts, which grow on trees, peanuts actually grow underground. The current top 3 producers of peanuts are China, India, and the U.S. Peanuts are also widely consumed, and they account for about 67 percent of all nuts consumed. Just 28g of raw peanuts contains nearly 7.3 grams of protein. Although they are high in fat and calories, peanuts provide a substantial amount of energy in one small bite.
Be careful to buy peanut butters without the added oils and sugars. Earlier this year the local peanut crop failed and there are a lot of poor quality imported peanut butters available. Peanuts are prone to a mould called Aflotoxin, and you should only eat the best quality peanuts that are available to you.
Nutrients in 1 Ounce (28 grams) of Shelled
Tree Nuts and Peanuts (1)
per 1 oz./
Calories Protein Fat (2) Total Sat
Almonds 20 – 24 160 6 14 1 9 3 Brazil nuts 6 – 8 190 4 19 5 7 7 Cashews 16 – 18 160 4 13 3 8 2 Hazelnuts 18 – 20 180 4 17 1.5 13 2 Macadamias 10 – 12 200 2 22 3 17 0.5 Peanuts (6) 28 170 7 14 2 7 4 Pecans 18 – 20
200 3 20 2 12 6 Pine nuts
160 7 14 2 5 6 Pistachios 45 – 47 160 6 13 1.5 7 4 Walnuts 14 halves 190 4 18 1.5 2.5 13 Source: Adapted from the International Tree Nut Council Research and Education Foundation publications