A delicious plant-based staple, legumes are packed with protein, fiber, and a plethora of other crucial nutrients. They are also an excellent addition to your cupboards in the fall and winter months, when soups, stews, casseroles, and chilis are on the menu. Here are 6 super-healthy legumes, ranked according to protein content from highest to lowest, along with several tasty recipes from the Food Monster App to get your creative juices flowing!
1. Edamame (Soybeans) – 18 grams of protein per cup
Although soy sometimes gets a bad rap in the media, when consumed in its whole and unprocessed form (AKA edamame), it is in fact incredibly nutritious and packs a powerful punch of protein. Edamame are a complete protein, meaning they contain all eight essential amino acids, and one cup of cooked edamame contains a whopping 18 grams of protein, making them #1 on our list. They are also a good source of vitamins K and B12, and, when consumed in moderation and not in a processed form, may even have some cancer-preventing benefits.
2. Lentils – 17-18 grams of protein per cup
These hearty legumes come in multiple varieties, some of the most common being red, green, French, and Black Beluga lentils. They are an excellent source of protein, regardless of which kind you eat, and one cup of cooked lentils contains 17-18 grams of plant-based protein. Lentils are also rich in iron, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, making them a true superfood. Cooking time is usually only around 30-40 minutes (less for red lentils), which means they can easily be prepared for a quick weeknight meal.
3. Split Peas – 16 grams of protein per cup
Best known for their role in soup, split peas come in two varieties, green and yellow (the yellow ones being starchier and less sweet), and are a particular species of field pea grown specifically for drying. One cup of cooked split peas contains approximately 16 grams of protein, and about the same amount of fiber, making them quite filling and nutritious. They are also rich in B vitamins, manganese, potassium, and iron. They can be cooked up in around 45 minutes, and used in soup, stews, curries, and more!
4. Black Beans – 15 grams of protein per cup
These tasty beans are both healthy and versatile and can be used in anything from stews to curries to veggie burger patties. One cup of cooked black beans contains approximately 15 grams of protein or around 30% of the recommended daily amount. They are also an excellent source of iron, protein, fiber, and magnesium, and may even reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. They can be purchased either dried or canned—if dried, they can be soaked overnight and then cooked for around two hours (with salt and other desired spices) until tender.
5. Pinto Beans – 15 grams of protein per cup
These flavorful beans are frequently eaten in Mexico and are often cooked, mashed, and used to make refried beans (or frijoles refritos in Spanish). One cup of cooked pinto beans contains approximately 15 grams of protein, and they are an excellent all-purpose bean to have around in your kitchen. They are also a good source of iron, copper, and manganese, and their high fiber content serves to stabilize blood sugar levels and lead to better cardiovascular health. The combination of protein, iron, and fiber makes pinto beans the perfect energizing protein source to add to soups, stews, chilis, curries, and more!
6. Chickpeas – 14 grams of protein per cup
These legumes, well-known for their crucial role in hummus, are also known as garbanzo beans, and are an especially popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains approximately 14 grams of protein, as well as a host of other important nutrients. They are rich in fiber and iron, and also “contain a plant sterol called sitosterol that is structurally similar to cholesterol in the body,” which can help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health.
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