Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
The terms beans, pulses, and legumes are often used interchangeably but actually have very different meanings. A “bean” is a type of pulse. What’s a pulse, you ask? A “pulse” is the edible seed of a legume. Now, what is a legume? A “legume” is a full plant (stems, leaves, and pods) from the Leguminosae or Fabaceae family.
Pulses include beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and black eyed peas. On the other hand, legumes (the whole plant) are used in the agriculture industry as livestock feed, as cover crops to enhance the soil, and as key ingredients in fertilizer. It can be confusing, so let me clarify a bit more... Think of a simple pea. The pea and its pod are considered a legume, while the pea that is inside of the pod is a pulse. In Asian cuisine, green or purple yard-long bean pods are consumed with both the bean and the pod. Sugar snap peas are the same since both the pea and the pod are eaten.
What about lentils? Lentils are a type of pulse or seed from a legume plant. They are smaller in size than beans or peas and are lens-shaped. Lentils are usually sold in a dry state and come in a variety of colors – red, yellow, green, and black.
Beans and peas are nutrition powerhouses, packed with protein, fiber, folate, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fats including linoleic and oleic acids. Beans are satiating and can be used as meat substitutes in plant-based diets due to their high protein content. The most common beans and peas consumed today include pinto beans, black eyed peas, navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and soy beans. Beans have become more popular as many people transition to plant-based diets and/or try cutting back on meat consumption.
Besides these common beans and peas, here are a few other beans worth trying:
- Fava beans or broad beans are large beans native to Africa and Southwest Asia but are also popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. Fava beans can be eaten raw or cooked and are popular in stews and soups.
- Adzuki beans, cultivated in East Asia, are good sources of protein, fiber, and manganese. They are small beans, mostly red in color, but can also come in black, grey, or mottled varieties.
- Moth beans, cultivated in Southeast Asia, are brown in color. A common bean in Indian cuisine, moth beans are used in curries with an earthy aroma and nutty flavor. Moth beans can also be eaten raw when sprouted and tossed in salads.
- Winged beans, also called princess beans or goa beans, are native to equatorial Asia and are eaten as a legume, meaning the whole pod is consumed. They are called winged beans because of their angled shape with frilly edges. Winged beans are cooked by steaming, sautéing, and adding to soups.
There are loads of bean, legume, and pulse options for you to try. Just be sure to cook them as directed. Soaking dry beans in water overnight, draining the water, rinsing, and cooking the beans in fresh water or broth will minimize the bloating and excess gas that can occur after consuming them. Lots of bean and lentil recipes are available online. Beans are very filling and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Look for new ways to include beans and peas in your diet. Try beans you haven’t eaten before. You’ll be glad you did!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.