Beans, lentils and other nutritious legumes are the best sources of lean vegetarian protein. Legumes are made up of high-quality carbohydrates that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They tend to be notably high in soluble fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium. These heart-healthy nutrients help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, and they can reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Soluble fiber, in particular, keeps you feeling fuller for longer, so it’s a good tool for weight loss. Many studies suggest that folate can improve mood and memory. Magnesium prevents migraine headaches and works with potassium to help lower high blood pressure.
Some legumes contain additional nutrients, such as zinc or vitamin B6. Zinc is a mineral that contributes to tissue growth and repair; it helps keep your skin and hair healthy. This mineral is also found in the retina of the eye, where it helps fend off macular degeneration. Vitamin B6 protects against age-related memory decline and also maintains healthy hair.
Beans and other legumes offer many health benefits, but some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are especially sensitive to the fiber in legumes, and experience discomfort after eating them. So if you suffer from IBS and they’re problematic, you’ll want to limit them in your diet.
Most beans are high in soluble fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and protein. Common varieties of beans include black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, white beans, soybeans (edamame), and garbanzo beans (chickpeas).
Black beans pack in a good amount of protein, soluble fiber, folate, iron, potassium, and other heart-healthy nutrients. They are also rich in magnesium, so they can help ward off migraine headaches.
In addition to their other heart-healthy nutrients, kidney beans contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that is responsible for the production of collagen, a component of cartilage. This vitamin helps prevent and manage arthritis and contributes to healthy skin and hair. Vitamin C has also been shown to help reduce the risk and progression of macular degeneration. Kidney beans also contain niacin, a B vitamin that may prevent cataracts. And like black beans, they are rich in magnesium, so they may have additional health benefits for people who suffer from migraines.
Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) and lima beans are high in zinc. Besides zinc, garbanzo beans contain migraine-fighting magnesium, vitamin B6, and they’re exceptionally high in folate.
Since white beans are a good nondairy source of calcium, they can help maintain strong bones and fight PMS symptoms. They’re also rich in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that helps prevent and manage arthritis and guard against memory loss.
Lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, and most other legumes are high in soluble fiber, lean protein, folate, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Lentils also contain vitamin B6, and they’re especially high in iron and folate. Lentils, black-eyed peas, and split peas are all rich in zinc, as well as potassium, a mineral that helps manage blood pressure and prevent osteoporosis.
Some of the best food sources of legumes are black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, lentils, soybeans (edamame), and black-eyed peas.