Your guide to being a healthy vegan  
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SoybeansLegumes / Beans

Legumes, also called pulses (primarily in the U.K.), is another name for beans, peas, and lentils. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soy milk, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein. Legumes are all good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins, and other nutrients that may prevent cancer and heart disease.

Quick Page Summary: It's important to eat about two (2) servings a day of legumes/beans. Some good choices include black beans, chick peas (or hummus), lentils, peas, and soybeans (or tofu, soy milk, etc.).

Daily Recommendations

According to the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the following are the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

  • Two (2) or more servings a day.
    Legumes, which is another name for beans, peas, and lentils, are all good sources of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. This group also includes chickpeas, baked and refried beans, soy milk, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein.

  • Serving size: cup cooked beans • 4 ounces tofu or tempeh • 8 ounces soy milk

Healthy Choices

The world's healthiest* legumes/beans (and their derivatives) include the following. Try to include a variety in your diet.

  • Black BeansBlack beans / black turtle beans– Black beans (sometimes also called black turtle beans) are medium-sized, oval, have a matte black color, and are sweet tasting with an almost mushroomy flavor. They have a soft, floury texture. Black beans are a good source of folate, dietary fiber, manganese, protein, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), phosphorus, and iron. They're loaded with antioxidants and may help lower your risk of heart attacks while stabilizing blood sugar. Black beans are a popular addition to many Mexican dishes, and make a great substitute for meat in tacos and burritos.
     
  • Garbanzo Beans / Chick PeasGarbanzo beans / chick peas – Also called chick peas, garbanzo beans are round, irregularly shaped tan beans with a firm texture and mild, nutlike flavor. They're a good sources of manganese, folate, dietary fiber, protein, copper, phosphorus, and iron. Eating garbanzo beans can lower "bad" cholesterol, give you energy, stabilize blood sugar, and provide antioxidant effects. Popular in the Mediterranean region, India, and the Middle East, garbanzo beans are used frequently in these cuisines to make dishes like hummus (Mediterranean region) or chana masala (India). Garbanzo beans are also great when sprinkled on salads.
     
  • Kidney BeansKidney beans – Kidney beans have skins that range from very dark red to pink and flesh that is cream colored. Kidney beans are noted for their robust flavor. Milder flavored white kidney beans, which are more difficult to find, are better known as cannellini beans. They're good sources of folate, dietary fiber, manganese, protein, iron, phosphorus, copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and vitamin K. Kidney beans can lower your risk for a heart attack, give you energy, stabilize blood sugar, help memory, and provide antioxidant effects. These versatile beans are often used in chilis, soups, stews, and salads. Cannellini beans are the traditional beans for the Italian Pasta e Fagioli or "pasta and bean soup." Kidney beans contain toxins when raw, and can be dangerous if eaten uncooked.
     
  • LentilsLentils – Lentils are good sources of folate, dietary fiber, manganese, iron, protein, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and potassium. Lentils can help your cardiovascular system, lower your "bad" cholesterol, give you energy, and stabilize blood sugar. There are several different types of lentils. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11 percent rather than 31 percent). Lentils tend to be very hearty and make a great addition to soups and stews. Unlike most legumes, dried lentils do not need to be soaked before they're cooked.
     
  • Lima Beans / Butter BeansLima beans / butter beans – There are different types of lima beans, all of which are good for you. Lima beans are good sources of dietary fiber, manganese, folate, protein, potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B1 (thiamin). Lima beans can help lower your "bad" cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart attack, give you energy, stabilize blood sugar, and provide antioxidant benefits. With their buttery flavor, lima beans are great in soups, stews, salads, or on their own as a side dish. Combined with corn and sometimes green or red bell pepper, they are used to make succotash.
     
  • Navy BeansNavy beans / white beans – Navy beans, also called white beans, are small, oval, and white. Navy beans are good sources of folate, manganese, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B1 (thiamin). Navy beans can lower your risk of heart attack, give you energy, stabilize blood sugar, provide antioxidant benefits, and help maintain your memory. These small white beans are commonly used to make baked beans, but they're also good in soups, salads, and chili. They're relatively difficult to digest. Navy beans are so named because they were a food staple for the U.S. Navy in the 1800s.
     
  • PeasPeas – Peas are good sources of dietary fiber, manganese, protein, folate, vitamin B1 (thiamin, potassium, and phosphorus. Peas may lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. They also give you energy and stabilize blood sugar. Peas can be found fresh, canned or dried (and split). Unlike most legumes, dried split peas do not need to be soaked before they're cooked.
     
  • Pinto BeansPinto beans / mottled beans – Pinto beans, sometimes called mottled beans, are medium-sized, oval, speckled reddish brown over a pale pink base, and have a solid texture and flavor. Pinto beans are good sources of folate, dietary fiber, manganese, protein, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin B1 (thiamin). Pinto beans can lower cholesterol, lower your risk of heart attacks, give you energy, stabilize blood sugar, provide antioxidant benefits, and help maintain your memory. Pinto beans are used in many Mexican dishes and to make refried beans.
     
  • SoybeansSoybeans – Soybeans' key benefits are related to excellent protein content, high levels of essential fatty acids, numerous vitamins and minerals, isoflavones, and fiber. Soybeans are also good sources of manganese, protein, iron, phosphorus, dietary fiber, vitamin K, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and potassium. The soybean is a nutritional powerhouse and is extremely versatile—it's used to make salad oil, tofu, soy sauce, mock meats, soy milk and soy cheese, and many meat and dairy alternatives. The actual beans need to be soaked a long time (when dried) and are somewhat hard to digest, but they're extremely nutritious.

*According to the George Mateljan Foundation. See the "World's Healthiest Foods" web site for more information.

Dried, Canned, or Frozen?

Legumes are most commonly found dried (in bulk bins), canned, or frozen. The differences in nutritional value between cooked dried beans and canned beans are very small, except for the amount of salt. Occassionally, you can also find them fresh. Frozen is also a great option. All legumes, regardless of how they are stored or prepared are healthy and nutritious.

  • Dried – Bulk dried beans are the most inexpensive option. Many people also believe it's the most flavorful. Dried beans are almost always cooked by boiling, often after having been soaked for several hours. While the soaking is not strictly necessary, it shortens cooking time and results in more evenly textured beans. Additionally, discarding one or more batches of soaking water leaches out hard-to-digest complex sugars that can cause flatulence. Cooking times vary from one to four (1 – 4) hours but are substantially reduced with pressure cooking.

  • Canned – Canned beans are usually very high in sodium, but are easy to cook (most are ready to eat out of the can). Before using, dump the beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly to remove the salt water.

Vegan / Vegetarian Legumes & BeansPreparing Dried Legumes

Tip: One (1) cup of dried beans or peas usually makes about two to three (2 – 3) cups cooked.

There are two common ways to prepare dried beans:

  • Basic Preparation – Before using, rinse dried beans under running water and pick out any debris or blemished beans. Dried beans should soak in water for several hours or overnight to soften before cooking. To soak beans, place them in a large saucepan or bowl and cover with three (3) inches of water. Let stand, covered, for six (6) hours or overnight. Do not soak beans longer than twelve (12) hours or they may begin to ferment. Drain beans before cooking.

  • Quick Soak Method – Place beans in the pan in which they will be cooked. Cover with three (3) inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for two (2) minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for one to two (1 – 2) hours. Proceed with recipe.

Tip: Salt, sugar, and acidic foods like tomatoes will harden uncooked beans and therefore should be added last, after the beans have been completely cooked.

To cook the beans, use these steps.

  1. Place the bans in the pan and then cover with water. Do NOT use soaking water for cooking (it has toxins). You may want to add oil to reduce the amount of foam they'll create.

  2. Bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender. Simmer gently to prevent skins from bursting. Stir occassionally.

  4. Beans/peas are done when they are fork-tender. Most varieties take 1 1/2 – 2 hours to cook.
Dried Beans Cooking Chart
Dried Beans (1 cup) Pre-Soaking Time Simmering Time
(Stovetop with 4 cups water)
Black (Turtle) 6 – 8 hrs

45 min – 60 min

Garbanzo / Chick Peas Overnight 90 min – 120 min
Kidney 6 – 8 hrs 60 min – 90 min
Lentil, Red None 10 min – 20 min
Lentil, Green or Brown None 30 min – 45 min
Lima 6 – 8 hrs 60 min – 90 min
Lima, Baby 6 – 8 hrs 45 min – 60 min
Pea, Split None 35 min – 40 min
Pinto 6 – 8 hrs 90 min
Soybean Overnight

2 hrs – 3 hrs

White (Great Northern,
Marrow, Navy, Pea)
6 – 8 hrs 45 min – 60 min

BeansStoring Legumes

  • Dried – Dry legumes can keep up to two (2) years if stored in a cool, dry place; however, as time passes, their nutritive value and flavor may degrade, and their cooking times lengthen.

  • Cooked – Cooked legumes can be covered and refrigerated for four to five (4 – 5) days. Cooked legumes usually freeze well (except for lentils) and can keep in the freezer for up to six (6) months.

Resources

Where can I buy healthy vegan alternatives?
Our sister site, Vegan and Vegetarian Products Guide, lists hundreds of tasty alternatives to dairy, eggs, meat, pet food, supplements, and more that can be found in many grocery stores.

Disclaimer
This web site is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. This site is provided by health-minded volunteers, not professionals. Always confirm the information you read with verified medical journals and articles before using the information. Always seek the advice of your physician, dietician, or other qualified health provider before changing your diet or taking supplements.

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The information above is for informational purposes only.
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