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The Food Pyramid: Legumes

Legumes are an excellent source of protein and fiber.

You know them as red, pinto, black, chickpeas, lentils, fava,  and soy. Although, these are just a few of the Fabaceae family. You may also know them from the popular rhyme ”beans, beans, the magical fruit; the more you eat, the more you…”.

Besides the bad rap (or smells) that legumes may receive, they are an important crop for our nutrition, well-being, and the environment.

Legumes are embryonic seeds consisting of an outer shell, embryo, and a cotyledon.

A cotyl… what?

The cotyledon is the key nutrient store for the seed embryo of the plant. It also primarily consists of carbohydrates, which when cooked, break down to provide a rich, creamy texture.

Legumes are widely known for their high protein content.

Legumes help to replenish the soil.

Another interesting aspect of legumes is their ability to return nitrogen to farmland soil naturally vis a vis a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria. It is not surprising then, that the scientific community advocates for increased use of leguminous crops.

And why not? It seems as if this wonder crop is too good to be true.

On average, the production of legumes emits significantly less greenhouse gasses by mass than for animal based proteins.

The power of the mighty bean doesn’t stop there. If $1.00 buys you 100 calories to fuel your body, then you will save $0.70 by choosing legumes over animal-based foods for that energy.

Good for the planet. Check!

Awesome nutrition. Check! And good for the wallet.

Yes, it is true that we don’t generally think of our food choices in terms of the their cost per calorie, but this is just another indicator that going plant-based doesn’t have to be expensive.

Still not convinced? Try these awesome leguminous recipes:


Legume. (2019, June 22). Retrieved from

Masset, G., Soler, L., Vieux, F., & Darmon, N. (2014). Identifying Sustainable Foods: The Relationship between Environmental Impact, Nutritional Quality, and Prices of Foods Representative of the French Diet. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(6), 862-869. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2014.02.002

McGee, H. (2004). On food and cooking the science and lore of the kitchen. New York: Scribner.

United States Department of Agriculture. (April 2018). National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (v.

Voisin, A., Guéguen, J., Huyghe, C., Jeuffroy, M., Magrini, M., Meynard, J., . . . Pelzer, E. (2013). Legumes for feed, food, biomaterials and bioenergy in Europe: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 34(2), 361-380. doi:10.1007/s13593-013-0189-y