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So what's a legume?

diet; legumes; nuts; peanuts; seeds; beans; recipes; legume; peas; soybeans; soy; hummous; lentils; protein; amino; acids; vegetable; tofu; vegetarian.;


What's a legume?

Legumes (say leg-ume) belong to the vegetable group of foods. There are a wide variety of legumes and they grow on vines or bushes.

  • legumesSome, eg. lentils, you can eat as seeds or they can be cooked and used in many recipes
  • Some can be dried, eg. dried peas, so you get a longer 'use by' time.
  • Others, such as peas, green beans, alfalfa and soybean sprouts you can eat just as they are, or they can be cooked.

Why eat legumes?

Legumes are really good for you because:

healthy legumes
  1. They are low in fat.
  2. They are high in protein.
  3. They have folate (say foh-late), potassium (po-tass-ee-um), iron and magnesium (mag-neez-ee-um), which are all good for your body.
  4. They have lots of fibre which means that your body doesn't digest it all, and what's left acts as a broom to 'sweep' out your digestive system, keeping cholesterol levels down and helping your heart. Have a look at the topic 'Your waste disposal system'.
  5. They have phytochemicals (fy-tow-kemi-kals) which are compounds which may help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
  6. They taste good!!

So, who wouldn't want to eat such great food?

How to make legumes a part of your diet

Soybeans are legumes which have all the amino acids needed to make a complete protein (just like meat), and you have lots of ways to eat them:

  • healthy teethsoy milk with cereal for breakfast (it's best to use soy milk with added calcium)
  • tofu in salads or casseroles
  • soy flour in rolls or bread
  • tempeh (made from fermented soybeans) instead of meat.

Lentils can be used in all sorts of vegetarian dishes, and if you look around Asian food shops or supermarkets you will find a lot of different varieties and colours.

lentilsDried beans and peas are good in casseroles, soups and stews once you have let them soak in water overnight, so that they plump up to their full size.

  • Blend beans together and add a dash of chilli or pepper to make a dip.
  • Add tofu and beans to a stir-fry.
  • Use bean sprouts, canned chickpeas or red kidney beans in a salad.
  • Eat soynuts instead of potato chips as a snack or with your sandwich at school lunchtime.

Some recipes that you can make

Here are two dips that you can put onto flat bread or cracker biscuits, and eat anywhere, or dip into with thin slices of carrots, celery, etc.

What you need
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (follow instructions on the packet of dried chickpeas to cook them) - or use chickpeas from a can (they will be cooked already
  • 2 large spoonfuls of lemon juice
  • 2 large spoonfuls of plain yoghurt
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed (or a small spoonful of ready minced garlic)
  • 1 large spoonful of olive oil
  • a pinch of fresh chopped thyme, basil and oregano (use dried if you haven't got fresh)
What you do
  1. Put the chickpeas, yoghurt, oil and lemon juice into the blender and blend until it is thick but not watery.
  2. Put the mixture into a bowl.
  3. Add herbs and garlic and mix well.
  4. Taste it.
  5. Add a little salt or lemon to suit your taste.

    That's it!

Here's another dip, but this time it's a dessert.
Some people are allergic to peanuts, so if you are one of them, this recipe is not for you!

Peanut butter dip
What you need
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 packet instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup peanut butter (use hazelnut spread if you can't have peanuts)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • slices of apples, bananas, strawberries or any fruit you like.
    wonderful fruit
What you do
  1. Put milk, sour cream and pudding mix into a bowl and mix using a hand held mixer (you can stick the lot into a blender but then it's harder to clean up afterwards).
  2. Stir in peanut butter and sugar and stir well.
  3. Put the lot into a bowl and into the fridge.
  4. Slice up your fruit.
  5. Dip the fruit slices into the pudding and eat. Delicious!

Spicy bean taco or dip
What you need
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • small tub of sour cream
  • 1 packet taco mix
  • 1/2 jar salsa
  • 1 lettuce, dried and chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • black olives
  • handful of shredded cheese
delicious baked beans
What you do

Drain and put beans into a bowl.
In another bowl, mix the sour cream and taco seasoning.
Spread the mixture over the beans.

For a dip
- Spread the salsa over that.
- Put layers of lettuce, tomato,
  onion and olives on top.
- Sprinkle the shredded cheese on
   the top.
- Eat as a dip with corn chips or on toast, bread or rolls.

For a taco
- Put this bean mixture into the
   microwave and cook on high for
   2 minutes.
- Put a couple of spoons of the
  warm mixture into your taco
- Add salsa, lettuce, tomato and
  shredded cheese to the top.

What's your favourite legume?

"I love baked beans on toast or in a toastie. Mum buys the reduced salt ones and you have to be careful to eat the toastie with a knife and fork because the beans get really hot. But I just love 'em." - Max

"I can only drink soymilk because I'm allergic to cow's milk. It tastes good and I like it." - Angie

"I like chickpeas in hommus and in casseroles in the winter. Yum." - Amy

"My brother is always eating seeds. He really likes them. Mum says he'll turn into a budgie one day!" - Carolyn

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim
"There are lots of legumes around in the supermarkets and Asian stores. If you are learning how to cook you can find lots more recipes to try with mum or dad. Legumes are good for your body and your heart. They can help you grow into a healthy adult."


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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