Legumes: list and properties

Legumes: list and properties

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legumes, are grown almost everywhere and are cooked in a thousand different ways, in sweet and savory dishes, and even sweet and sour. In combination with cereals, they also win over meat, in terms of protein and cost. The 2016 is their year, an opportunity to get to know them better, discover them or rediscover them. There are stereotypes to be swept away by making room for useful information instead. Useful not for the legumes, which survive in almost any climate, but for us and our health.

Legumes: what they are

We find legumes even in Greenland and in the Pacific islands, they are more than widespread and the precious ability to adapt to any climate, in fact in Italy they are present in all regions. The large legume family includes 650 genera, for a total of about 12,000 species divided into three subfamilies: Faboideae or Papilionoideae, Caesalpinioideae, Mimosoideae. These names will not tell you anything, so I spend a few words to get an idea.

The first subfamily includes two thirds of the species, especially the herbaceous ones, all with a flower from "papilionaceous" form complete with lateral petals that resemble butterfly wings. Broad bean (Vicia faba), soybean (Glycine max), pea (Pisum sativum), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), lentil (Lens culinaris) and peanut (Arachis hypogaea) are of this category.

Then there are the legumes belonging to the subfamily of the Caesalpinioideae, shrubby or arboreal, widespread in the tropical or subtropical zone. These have the flower with five petals, such as the carob (Ceratonia siliqua) and the tamarind (Tamarindus indica). Still in the tropical or subtropical zone the third subfamily remains, of the Mimosoideae.

It includes shrub and tree species with spike-like flowers similar to pompoms, such as Acacia and Mimosa. All subfamilies have a pod and, on the roots, a bacterium, Rhizobium leguminosarum, which makes i legumes suitable for carrying out the rotation of herbaceous crops.

Legumes origins

Always i legumes play an important role inhuman nutrition, we can say that they have always nourished us, as evidenced by the drawings in the royal tombs of the ancient Egyptians, the stories of Homer's Iliad and the pages of the Old Testament.

In some oriental cultures there is evidence of the presence of legumes in the dish dating back to 20,000 years ago, "only" 5,000 years ago we find the Lima bean and borlotti beans for the first time in the recipes of Mexican and Peruvian civilizations. THE legumes have accompanied the human race, and not only the human one, in history, in every war or peaceful period: historians remember well that in the Middle Ages always them, i legumes, “Saved” Europeans from a fate of possible extinction due to malnutrition. We owe our life to legumes.

Legumes: list

To thank i legumes for having supported us in difficult times, and for how they still enrich our menus today, let's face them. One by one, pausing for a while to learn about its peculiarities.

The peanuts they are often toasted as an aperitif, or as peanut butter and, in the form of flour, as ingredients for biscuits, cakes or snacks. And then there is peanut oil, second only to olive oil. Between legumes the peanut shows a high protein content, excellent for the brain and blood circulation, and a good presence of antioxidants, much higher than that of apples, carrots and beets. They contain coenzyme Q10 just like oily fish, beef, soy and spinach. The peanut butter it is not exactly the best way to consume this legume, it is a hyperlipidic and high-calorie food.

THE chickpeas I'm legumes able to lower the levels of "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, they also have an excellent protein content (21-22%) and are well-matched in terms of amino acids. As vitamins they "go strong" with group B. A dish of pasta and chickpeas has all the 8 essential amino acids, like a steak, it has less saturated fat and less strain on the kidneys.

The Cicerchie they are widespread in areas of drought, in Italy only moderately and only in the center-south. I am one of the legumes oldest and most consumed by our ancestors, they have a modest content of proteins, B vitamins, mineral salts, fibers and polyphenols. I'm a source of calcium and phosphorus but, unfortunately, also of a neurotoxin considered the cause of neurolatirism.

THE Beans are among the best known legumes and frequently cooked, in Italy as elsewhere. Especially if they are red, they are very rich in iron, potassium and fiber, so very effective when it comes to controlling blood pressure and fighting cholesterol. Always beans are rich in calcium and also for this very recommended.

The Fava beans they contain an amino acid (L-dopa) which improves mood by making dopamine present in the brain. Not only that, these legumes they carry out a preventive action for both female tumors and cardiovascular diseases by containing phytoestrogens, their peel can however be indigestible but small tricks are enough to solve the problem.

The Lentils, in addition to containing phytoestrogens that enhance the immune system, are among the legumes richer in vegetable proteins (over 25%). This makes them useful for keeping blood pressure under control, preventing tumors and lowering the levels of "bad" cholesterol. They are also a generous source of phosphorus, calcium, potassium and iron and vitamin PP.

THE Lupins they are not very widespread in Europe, the types that we can meet are: Lupinus albus, Lupinus luteus and Lupinus angustifolius. It is about legumes containing proteins with high allergenic power (epitopes), they often cause even serious food allergies, especially in very young children.

THE Peas, like beans, are among the best known legumes, and differ in their low caloric contribution, especially when eaten fresh. They supply us with iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin C, help prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases. However, they can show acidifying effect, better not to overdo it.

There Soy, last among the legumes only in alphabetical order, is highly recommended for the prevention of ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers, but also of the prostate. The primacy of soy, however, is in calcium: it contains more than all the others legumes. In 100 grams of soy there is more than in 100 ml of milk. Rich in proteins of high biological value, unlike meat, it has no unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, therefore it is easier to digest. As well as in simple form, just take a tour of the supermarket shelves to find other forms. THE sprouts, soy beans, tempeh, tofu, milk, miso.

Dried vegetables

Less expensive than canned ones, i dried vegetables they are a highly respected food resource. First of all, we pay attention, and compile our shopping list, turning to beans, chickpeas and lentils, generous sources of protein, iron and minerals. Except the green lentils, the legumes must be soaked before being consumed, following the indicated cooking times.

If we are in a hurry, we put the vegetables in the pressure cooker and it takes half the minutes. We can then eat them simply cooked and seasoned with oil and rosemary as a side dish, or by adding them to soups, smoothies, purees or velvets. With i dried vegetables you can also make vegetable burgers, or enrich pasta dishes or salads. To make them more digestible, the addition of powdered ginger, bay leaf or rosemary, we can also cook them in abundance and then keep them seasoned in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Fresh legumes

For fresh legumes we mean those in season such as green beans, beans, peas, broad beans, snow peas and the like. They differ from the dry colleagues that we usually find instead in bags and are soaked, as seen, before being used. THE fresh legumes they are available already cooked in jars, but the best thing is to buy them in quantity and then freeze them, after having shelled them.

Legumes: recipes

Given the properties of the legumes, from a nutritional point of view, it is a must, or almost, to introduce a lot of them in our menu, alternating however the types and their preparation. Here are some examples of what you can easily achieve with a bit of imagination and not too much time in the kitchen. There are chickpea meatballs, for example, similar to felafel of Middle Eastern cuisine: find the vegan version of the recipe in the article: Vegan chickpea meatballs.

Another appetizing dish is the sandwich with lentil burger, very comfortable for a lunch break away from home. In the "schiscetta" you can also bring spelled with cannellini beans and Brussels sprouts, a panacea for the intestine too. Let's not forget soups as first courses, for example you can prepare one with legumes, oats and chestnuts, very autumnal, low in fat and easily digestible But rich in fiber and vegetable proteins. With peas, which we have said among the least caloric, we can find ideas in the two articles Recipes with pea husks is Recipes with pea pods.

I finish with a good and simple to prepare omelette with chickpeas, carrots and sesame seeds. I recommend enjoying it with vegetables and wholemeal bread. We need 120-125 g of chickpea flour, 2 grated carrots, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a handful of sesame seeds to taste. We mix the chickpea flour with the turmeric, mix it with lukewarm water until the mixture is moderately thick. We add carrots and extra virgin olive oil and pour into a well-oiled pan, sprinkling the surface with sesame seeds. All in the oven at 180 ° C, finally, until you see the golden surface. IS enjoy your meal.

Legumes: proteins

I mentioned them, and we can eat them, in all sauces, the proteins contained in legumes, vary in contribution from a minimum of 18%, in some chickpeas, to a maximum of 44.3% for example in dried lupins. They are considered of medium biological value, the biological value is a number referring to the protein nitrogen actually absorbed and used by our body, i.e. net of urinary, fecal, skin losses, etc.

The biological reference value is 100 attributed to the egg. Together with milk and dairy products, meat and fishery products, it obviously has a high VB, ours legumes they have medium as well as dry rush and grain germ, while refined grain flours, vegetables, mushrooms and fruit contain low VB proteins. Entering into the merits of the type of proteins present in legumes, we can complain about the lack of methionine and cysteine, on the other hand lysine and tryptophan are more than sufficient.

A bit technical as a matter, but let's trust that if we associate legume proteins to those of cereals, we obtain an overall VB equal to that of animal proteins. An example is the pasta with chickpeas I mentioned earlier, comparing it, rightly, to a steak.

How to store legumes

Let i dried vegetables and fresh ones, they are very convenient to consume even after having cooked them in time, taking them out at the last moment of the week. So they must be kept properly. This practice, in addition to being tasty, is also virtuous: storing legumes means economic savings and respect for the environment.

In fact, in this way we avoid buying packaged products, thus significantly reducing the packaging. And if we get our supplies from local producers, live the Km zero and all its advantages. I don't overlook one last detail: savings, because finished or semi-finished products cost more. We only have to gain, therefore, and then we discover "How to store legumes”In this article.

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