Vegan, gluten-free, high in protein: pulses are the perfect fit food, because beans, lentils, chickpeas or lupins are not only rich in many good nutrients, but are also an ideal source of protein for vegetarians or vegans. There are even more good reasons to eat the diverse vegetables more often – plus delicious recipe ideas – waiting for you in this article.
In this article:
What are legumes?
What is commonly known as legumes are actually not fruits at all, but rather the seeds of the so-called legumes (or, if you want to score points with expert knowledge: legumes).
Botanically speaking, too, it is not fruit but vegetables. They grow in fruit leaves that open when they ripen, so that the seeds can be harvested. Depending on the variety, they are then dried, cooked or sold fresh.
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The legume family includes about 20,000 different species – crazy, isn’t it? In many countries the healthy seeds are among the most important staple foods. In India, for example, hardly any dish can do without legumes such as lentils (hmm, delicious Linsendal!). This is also true for many South American and African countries. Only in our country has this trend been slow to establish itself so far. But this should change as soon as possible.
What varieties are there?
We’ll save you the trouble of listing all 20,000 varieties here. It really doesn’t take that much wisdom. But you should at least know the most common varieties:
Lenses can be recognized by their flat, round shape. They have all types of lenses in common, whether they are red, yellow, green, brown or black.
Stuffed eggplant with lentils – hmmm, delicious! © Kiian-Oksana / Shutterstock.com
However, there are varieties that are already peeled, such as the red and yellow ones. Without peel they cook faster, can be prepared without soaking and are also better tolerated. They are used for Indian dals, curries or stews. Beluga and puy lentils are particularly fine. They have a crunchy taste and are often used in salads or side dishes.
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Not all beans are the same, because they too come in very different varieties. Most people know kidney beans from the classic Mexican chili con carne. There are also black beans, white beans, azuki beans, green beans, pinto beans and of course soybeans. The latter is the basis for many vegan meat or milk substitute products such as tofu, tempeh, soy yoghurt or soy milk.
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The Asian bean Edamame also belongs to the legume family, this (still) green bean is an unripe harvested soya bean.
The small green vegetables are a typical children’s food, but for older children they are at least as healthy. But peas are not just the small round seeds, which can be bought freshly frozen or in a tin all year round. Sweet peas also belong to the green legume family. They are prepared with their shell, but can also be eaten raw.
Recipe for quick pea soup
Although they have the same name, they are not related to the green peas. A completely different kind of pea is the chickpea, which is mainly found in oriental countries. But we also love falafel and hummus, which are made from this healthy vegetable.
A tasty bowl with vegetables and chickpeas will keep you full for a long time. © Vitalii-Matokha / Shutterstock.com
Then where does the funny name come from? It comes from Latin and describes the shrub on which the peas grow: “cicer” – pronounced “kiker”. In the course of time it became “kihhira” and finally “chuckle”.
A rising star in the legume family: lupines are gaining more and more attention, especially because of their use as a meat substitute. The protein-rich seeds are increasingly being offered as an alternative to soya products because they have a bad image. In addition to meat substitutes, lupine flour is also available, for example.
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The peanut – a legume? Yeah, you read that right. The name confuses, but at least botanically the peanut has nothing to do with other nut varieties. The similarity here is rather due to its inner values, such as the high content of healthy fats. In contrast to many other legumes, you can also enjoy peanuts raw.
Why should I eat legumes?
The question is rather: Why are so few pulses eaten in our country? Nobody has to look for reasons for this for a long time. After all, beans, lentils and peas are small energy packages that are brimming with healthy nutrients.
Lentils are tasty, healthy and versatile in the kitchen. © stockcreations / Shutterstock.com
Here are 4 reasons to eat legumes (even) more often:
1. legumes are rich in fibre
Fibre is extremely important for the digestion to “flow”. These indigestible food components end up in your intestines, where they bind liquid, so that they swell up and provide a long-lasting feeling of satiety. An extra plus point if you want to lose weight. Because when you are full, you don’t immediately reach for the next snack.
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Fibre is also the perfect food for the good intestinal bacteria, which can multiply better and keep your intestinal flora healthy. Since pulses contain a particularly high amount of fibre, they make an important contribution to healthy digestion.
2. legumes are protein bombs
Proteins make you feel full for a long time, promote fat burning, inhibit ravenous appetite and thus help to say goodbye to the odd extra kilo. In addition, protein is needed for the formation of muscle cells and connective tissue, strengthens the immune system and keeps the hormone balance in balance. This makes the daily ration of protein, which is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight according to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society, all the more important.
Whether as a veggie main course or as a side dish with meat: legumes, like peas, always taste good. © Kiian Oksana / Shutterstock.com
But always only animal products? Not necessarily. Pulses deliver a whole load of protein at once. For vegans and vegetarians in particular, they are therefore one of the most important suppliers of protein.
3. legumes are vegan, gluten and lactose-free
Vegan is as hip as ever. With a purely vegetable diet, many foods are omitted, especially the classic protein sources such as meat, fish and eggs. Pulses take this place and are therefore often a fixed component of the veggie lifestyle.
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Pulses, especially soybeans, are used to produce a wide range of meat replacement products. In addition to tofu and tempeh, lupines, for example, are also used for this purpose. Even allergy sufferers who do without the gluten gluten or the lactose lactose do not need to worry about pulses and can eat them without hesitation.
4. legumes contain important minerals
Energy metabolism, oxygen transport, hormone production, bone structure and the interaction between muscles and nerves: For all this (and many more) your body needs a lot of different minerals and trace elements. That’s why you need to take them in with your daily diet.
Incidentally, legumes are also among the best sources of magnesium. © Antonina Vlasova / Shutterstock.com
Legumes are rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and many important B vitamins. This makes them a good choice for female athletes in particular, since the need for many minerals often increases additionally due to physical exertion.
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How do I prepare pulses correctly?
You really don’t have to shy away from preparing pulses. Because it’s not that hard. Some varieties are convenient and easy to buy already cooked in cans or jars. If you need it quickly, you can also fall back on them. If you buy dried beans or chickpeas, on the other hand, you have to soak them first. It is not complicated, just takes a little more time.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
1. Soak long enough: Soak dried pulses in cold water. The soaking time varies from variety to variety, but it can take up to 12 hours. So it is best to do this overnight. However, you should definitely stick to the soaking time, as this will rinse out substances that are not well tolerated and indigestible.
Dried pulses must always be soaked before cooking. © luri / Shutterstock.com
2. rinse with clean water The water that you have used for soaking, please pour it away at the end. It contains the washed out substances and that’s exactly what you want to remove. Then simply rinse with clear water.
3. use sufficient water for cooking Pour the pulses into a pot and fill up with sufficient water. During the cooking process a lot of the liquid evaporates. Therefore the pulses should be completely covered with water.
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4. simmer slowly and at low heat: This not only makes the pulses more digestible, but also prevents the whole thing from ending in a mushy mass. The best way to find out how long this takes is to look at the packaging.
5. Season to finish: The pulses are seasoned only at the end. Salt can prevent them from becoming soft.
However, there are a number of varieties that do not need to be soaked because the skin has already been removed. These include red, yellow and belugalin lentils. These usually also have a shorter cooking time, which is best read on the packaging. Fresh peas, mung beans or runner beans only need to be freed from the ends and can be cooked directly.
Why do pulses cause flatulence?
Every bean makes a little noise. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying a thousand times. But what’s behind it? Well, for the record: legumes can cause gas, but that’s not always the case.
However, if unpleasant gas formation occurs after eating beans, lentils or peas, this is due to certain sugar molecules. Legumes contain complex carbohydrate structures. In order for them to provide your body with energy, they have to be broken down into individual molecules.
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With some it works quite well, with others not. The sugar molecules rhamnose, raffinose and stachyose, for example, cause more trouble for your digestive tract. Your small intestine cannot yet use them, so they migrate all the way to the colon. Various intestinal bacteria take care of them there. But this process produces gases that you perceive as flatulence.
Ate too many pulses? No wonder the bowel is rebelling.
In order to avoid this unpleasant side effect, there are several tips to follow. One of them is to soak the food as described above before preparation. It also helps your intestines to slowly get used to pulses. So start with small portions first. And always remember to chew well, so as to relieve your bowel of some of the work. Spices, such as caraway seeds or cumin, can also help.
What kind of legume recipes are there?
Whether salad or soup, oriental or Mediterranean, warm or cold: pulses are incredibly versatile. The variety of varieties alone opens a whole host of doors. Kidney beans taste particularly good in Mexican dishes, lentils – especially red and yellow ones – are the main ingredient for Indian dals, belugalin lentils are best suited for fruity salads and chickpeas are pureed to make hummus or as balls formed into falafel balls.
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You decide whether with or without meat. You can conjure up delicious vegetarian or vegan main courses from legumes, but they are also a great side dish for meat and fish.
Want some inspiration? Here are our favourite recipes with legumes:
Quick bean pan with egg
Complex carbs of kidney beans, healthy vegetables and a small protein bomb in the middle: This vegetarian bean pan has everything a good main course needs
ingredients for 1 portion(s)
- 250 g tomato(s)
- 3 sprigs spring onion(s)
- 1 TL Rapeseed oil
- 150 g kidney beans, canned
- Chilli powder
- 3 sprigs of parsley
- 1 medium-sized egg(s)
Preparation Quick bean pan with egg
- Cut tomatoes into large pieces, spring onions into rings.
- Heat the oil in a small pan, sauté the spring onions in it, add the tomatoes, let it braise for about 5 minutes while stirring.
- Add the beans, season everything with salt, pepper and chilli. Let simmer for another 5 minutes, then chop the parsley and add it (leave a little bit as topping).
- Beat the egg over the pan and pour it onto the tomato and bean mixture in a small hollow. Leave to set on a low heat for 6-8 minutes.
Best served in the pan. Add parsley as a final topping.
- Calories (kcal): 364
- fat: 17g
- Protein: 18g
- Carbohydrates: 38g
Chick Pea Coconut Curry
The vegan cuisine can’t be hearty? Then you probably haven’t tried this savoury chickpea coconut curry yet …
ingredients for 2 portion(s)
- 80 g brown rice, raw
- 1 medium-sized onion(s)
- 4 medium spring onion(s)
- 2 TL Rapeseed oil
- 240 g chick peas, tinned (drained weight)
- 2 TL Curry powder
- 200 ml vegetable broth
- 100 ml coconut milk
- 1 handful of baby spinach
- 20 g cashew nuts
Preparation Chick Pea Coconut Curry
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet.
- Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and cut the spring onions into rings.
- Heat oil in a wok or frying pan, add onions and sauté briefly, then add the chickpeas. Season with curry powder.
- Deglaze with vegetable stock and coconut milk and add the spring onion (leave a few for decoration) and the cashew nuts. Let everything boil down a little and finally steam the spinach briefly.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve the curry with the rice. Sprinkle a few spring onions on top as decoration.
- Calories (kcal): 580
- fat: 29g
- Protein: 17g
- Carbohydrates: 59g
Lentil salad with quark
Lentils were always only available at grandma’s? Time to spice up the dusty image of the small pulses, because lentils are not only super healthy and tasty, but also very versatile in preparation. First obligatory recipe: this quick lentil salad, also perfect for the lunch box
ingredients for 1 portion(s)
- 35 g lentils, dry product
- 125 ml vegetable broth
- 1 medium-sized tomato(s)
- 1/4 clove garlic
- 1/2 medium-sized onion(s)
- 1 shot of lemon juice
- 1 EL Olive oil
- 1 TL Parsley
- 100 g herb quark
Preparation Lentil salad with quark
- Cook the lentils in vegetable stock according to the package instructions so that they still have bite. Tip: Red lentils only need about 10 minutes!
- Dice the tomato, finely chop the garlic and onion.
- Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, onion and garlic to a dressing and then mix with the lentils and tomato. Chop the parsley and sprinkle over it.
- Eat herb curd cheese as a dip with it.
- Calories (kcal): 378
- fat: 21g
- Protein: 18g
- Carbohydrates: 25g
Pulses are the perfect all-rounders in the kitchen. With their top nutritional values and high mineral content, they also compete with every steak. Do without meat from time to time and experiment in the kitchen with lentils, chick peas & Co.