One of our favourite pantry staples - legumes!
We are going to focus on a couple of varieties when it comes to legumes and look at chickpeas, black beans, lentils (red and brown), cannellini and kidney beans. Soybeans and peanuts also fall under the legume family, but as they are both top 9 allergens, have a very different nutrition profile and are distinctly unique from your typical pantry legume, we will leave them out of this article.
So why do we love legumes? They are:
- Have a long shelf life, so reduced food waste
- Are full of nutrition- including energy, protein (about 6g per 100g), fibre, zinc and iron
- Contain phytonutrients- which research shows are beneficial for heart health, reducing cancer and chronic disease risk
- A good source of B-group vitamins (especially folate!)
Are they an allergen:
As we mentioned before, soy and peanuts are legumes that are in the top nine allergens, so they need to be introduced differently (check out our article on introducing the top nine allergens here).
Lupin, is another legume that is similar to peanuts and some people who have a peanut allergy also have a lupin allergy. Lupin is super high in protein and fibre and is being increasingly used in bakery products in Australia. For more information check out ASCIA’s allergy fact sheet on Lupin here.
Otherwise, the other more common legumes that we are taking about, like any food, can in rare cases cause an allergenic reaction, but it is not common. For this reason, there is no need to introduce them individually or in any special way.
Have you heard about antinutrients?
There is a lot of noise out there about “antinutrients” in legumes, for example lectins. The word “antinutrient” can sounds really scary, but if you are eating a varied and balanced diet you have nothing to worry about. No, you don’t need to be pre-soaking and souring your grains or legumes either!
Antinutrients are naturally found in plant and animal foods, and they can block the absorption of other nutrient like calcium, iron and zinc. Plants evolved to have these “antinutrients” as a protective mechanism i.e some antinutrients can taste bitter and stop the plant from being eaten by an animal, helping it to survive out there in the wild.
Research shows us that you would need to be eating an almost impossibly high amount of these antinutrients to have any negative effect, and in fact we are starting to see that there are health benefits to most of them. For example, lectins, an infamous antinutrient, are also associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
A large amount of antinutrients are also removed in the cooking process. Looking at the typical dietary pattern of most people, there is very little risk that anyone is consuming enough legumes to cause nutrient deficiency from antinutrients!
Overall, the pros of eating legumes much outweigh any of the cons that you may have heard about.
When can you introduce them?
From 6 months, or when you are starting solids. Because they are packed full of nutrients, nice and soft and easily mashed into other foods, legumes are an excellent way to pump up the protein and iron of your purees! Otherwise, mashing and spreading them onto fingers foods works well if you are doing BLW.
How to serve them safely:
Depending on the type of legume you are using, they can be a choking hazard. Your soft little lentils are fine as is, but your slightly larger beans need some modification. Your cannellini, black and kidney beans should be flattened, mashed or pureed when you first introduce them to bub.
Whole beans are fine! Just ensure they aren’t hard. Undercooked beans (more likely to happen with dried beans that have been cooked) can still be very tough.
- Add into purees
- Make hommus
- Mix through mincemeat dishes like bolognaises or chili con carne
- Mash into a paste and spread on toast
- Mix cannellini bean puree into porridge
- Making dahl or curries
- Add into patties or fritters
Bouchenak M, Lamri-Senhadji M. Nutritional quality of legumes, and their role in cardiometabolic risk prevention: a review. J Med Food. 2013 Mar;16(3):185-98. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.0238. Epub 2013 Feb 11. PMID: 23398387.
Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Nov;39(11):1197-204. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2013-0557. Epub 2014 Jun 13. PMID: 25061763.
Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). Secondary Analysis of the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey 2011-2012 Unpublished: 2015.
Vincent J. van Buul, Fred J.P.H. Brouns, Health effects of wheat lectins: A review,
Journal of Cereal Science, Volume 59, Issue 2, 2014, Pages 112-117, ISSN 0733-5210,