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Health Hub > Eat Well > 5 easy ways to add beans, peas and lentils to your diet

5 easy ways to add beans, peas and lentils to your diet

With canned beans and chickpeas or dried lentils in your cupboard, you will never go hungry. In fact, you will be spoilt for choice – legumes are nutritious, delicious, versatile and easy to cook.

One small thing: Add beans to two of your dinners this week – not only do they help your meals go further, but they add valuable nutrients.

Legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, are nutritional powerhouses. They're packed with slow-burning carbohydrates and vegetable protein, plus they're high in fibre. All legumes are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients.

Studies suggest that regularly eating legumes helps lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

And there’s no finesse required in the kitchen. Take a look at these creative ways to make the most of this wonderful ingredient.

1. Make them the star of the show
  • Simmer cooked chickpeas in a sauce consisting of tomato paste, curry spices and chopped walnuts, and serve this dahl-style dish with brown rice.
  • Combine a selection of your favourite diced vegetables with cooked lentils; add stock, and season with soya sauce, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper for a flavoursome Moroccan stew.
2. Add as a supporting act
  • Pulses will enhance the taste, texture and nutritional content of almost any soup.
  • Add a handful of cooked black beans to your usual pizza toppings.
  • Use cooked black or kidney beans in an omelette.
  • Substitute half the meat you’d normally use in stews with cooked pulses. You’ll save money, and add more nutrients.
3. Serve as delicious sides
  • Blend together chickpeas, olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini and lemon juice to make a quick and tasty hummus.
  • Place cooked kidney beans, garlic, cumin and chilli peppers in a food processor and blend for a delicious spread that can be used as a crudité dip or sandwich filling.
  • Purée 1 cup (250ml) of drained canned lentils with your favourite herbs (rosemary, oregano or tarragon pair well with lentils) to make a nutty-flavoured spread for sandwiches.
4. Spruce up your salads
  • Add chickpeas to a Greek salad for a protein and fibre boost.
  • Toss cooked lentils over a leafy, green salad.
  • Combine cooked lentils and chopped sweet peppers to make a delicious cold salad. Season with your favourite herbs and spices, and add a dash of olive oil.
  • Toss together leftover pasta, cooked beans, broccoli and sliced spring onion. Sprinkle with an olive oil, garlic and ginger dressing.
  • Combine cooked kidney beans with black and white beans to make a colourful three-bean salad. Season with fresh herbs and a dressing.
  • Build a whole salad around lentils and beans. Start with the cooked legumes, then add roasted veggies, a vinaigrette, pieces of feta and a handful of fresh herbs – great for a side or main dish.
5. Savour as a snack
  • Drain and rinse canned chickpeas and season with your favourite herbs and enjoy just like that. Or, you can roast them (without any oil) for a delicious crunchy snack.
  • Serve carrots, celery and other vegetables with hummus for healthy nibbles.
Top tip

Worried about gas? Reduce the chances of getting gas by introducing legumes gradually into your diet. Also, rinse canned pulses thoroughly before eating. When soaking dried pulses, change the water once or twice, then rinse thoroughly before cooking.

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