Legumes include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. In general terms, legumes are plants that produce seeds or fruits in pods. They provide nutrients such as calcium, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B-6.
Nearly all beans and peas are legumes, as are lentils. Surprisingly, peanuts, licorice, red clover and alfalfa are, as well. Common varieties of legumes include beans, such as lima, black, cannellini, green, kidney Mung, pinto, red and soybeans. Black-eyed peas, chickpeas and snow peas are some common varieties of peas. What they all have in common is that they’re low-fat, have no cholesterol and provide significant amounts of protein and nutrients, as well as dietary fiber.
Although regarded by many as a source of healthier carbohydrates than wheat and other starchy vegetables, legumes are a subject of debate in the study of diet. According to the Ultimate Paleo Guide, while legumes don’t raise blood sugar levels and inhibit fat, they are still high in carbohydrates. In addition, they contain phytates, which block the absorption of minerals in food, and lectins, which bind with other proteins and can cause gas, bloating and even break down the intestinal wall. Although dietitians agree that legumes don’t have the best nutritional profile, they still provide cleaner carbohydrates than grains.