Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils are wonderful for your health. They fight cholesterol, keep your gut balanced and provide you with energy for hours after you eat them.
However, like most Australians, you might struggle when it comes to finding a way to include them in your everyday meals. Here are some simple (and delicious) ways to get your legume intake up without having to make many changes to your diet.
- Toss them in your salad
You probably know that a tasty, nutritious salad has ingredients like leafy greens, tomato, cucumber, carrot, celery, avocado, onion, capsicum, seeds and a protein like chicken or fish. While this contains much needed vegetables, healthy fats and protein, why not try putting in a can of four-bean mix or chickpeas?
Adding legumes will take your salad from good to great, boosting fibre, protein and micronutrients. It will also give your salad a low glycaemic index GI source of carbohydrate, which means it will keep you feeling energetic for longer.
- Throw legumes in your favourite curry
Chickpeas make for a great addition to curries, as they don’t alter the flavour too much. In fact, they will give your curry a bit of crunch, making it even more enjoyable. Not to mention the massive boost to the curry’s nutritional value!
- Snack on roasted chickpeas
Roasted chickpeas are a delicious lunchbox snack. You can roast them yourself of buy them from the shops (we love The Happy Snack Company’s range). They are especially great to replace nuts in your kids’ lunchboxes.
- Boost your meat sauces
Add legumes to any meals that have a meat sauce. For example, throw lentils in your spaghetti bolognaise sauce, or add black beans to your burrito filling for an authentic Mexican taste.
- Eat baked beans
Humble baked beans make a great meal or snack. They contain a heap of fibre, low GI carbohydrate, protein and iron.
Try eating them with your eggs at breakfast or with some cheese on toast for an easy lunch.
If buying pre-made baked beans, look for reduced salt or no added salt varieties, or better yet make your own.
- Use them in baking
While you might not think of legumes as a typical baking ingredient, they can be a great addition to your favourite baked recipe. For example, chick peas can be quite an effective (and gluten free) flour substitute in brownies.
- Pop lentils in your soup
Lentils make a soup thick and tasty. Lentil and vegetable soup is delicious and nutritious, or you could add them to your favourite pumpkin or chicken soup recipe. There lots of recipes online – check out Australian Healthy Food Guide website for a great variety.
- Have lots of hummus
Eat it on your sandwich, in your salad or as a dip with some vegetable sticks. Hummus is an incredibly versatile food which is high in fibre, protein and healthy fat and boasts a variety of health benefits.
If buying pre-made hummus, try to choose a product that doesn’t include preservatives (we like Pilpel). Otherwise, making your own is easy and cheap. Simply mix chickpeas, tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and pepper in a food processor.
- Swap meatballs for falafel
While you may love your meatballs, have you ever thought about mixing them up with falafels from time to time? Falafels are made from chickpeas and a range of herbs and spices. They go fabulously in sandwiches or wraps, or even in your salad. They are even better when combined with hummus.
- Try some delicious dahl
Dahl is a very tasty traditional meal consumed in the Indian sub-continent. This curry-like dish typically incorporates lentils, vegetables and a range of herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric and coriander. It can be a great take-away option or a relatively easy dish to make at home.