This article was submitted by Katherine Baqleh.

Katheeine is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and nutritionist and founder of Health Victory Nutrition Experts, a private practice and nutrition consultancy located in a number of clinics across Sydney (NSW, Australia). Katherine conducts private consultations, seminars and conferences in a number of community and corporate settings (healthvictorynutrition.com.au). Her main passion lies with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight management.

I love cooking! Legumes (or pulses) are one of my favourite and most versatile group of ingredients to use. Whether it be lentils, chickpeas, beans or peas, in one form or another, I will enjoy at least one of these daily.

Why I love legumes and why you must too! Did you know? Legumes are a meat alternative. Legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including protein, low glycaemic (GI) carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Legumes are also a source of all 3 recognised forms of dietary fibre – soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch – which are responsible for many of the protective effects of legumes.legumes

Are you eating on a budget? Legumes are a cost-effective source of quality protein, and are higher in protein than many other plant foods. They even have about twice the protein content of cereal grains.

Are you looking for a low fat, nil cholesterol food suggestion? Legumes are virtually free of saturated fats (exception: peanuts and soybeans), and offer significant levels of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid.

Are you looking for sustained energy?Legumes are a rich source of slow release energy, owing to their low GI rating, making them a fantastic source of food to control blood glucose levels.

Are you looking for a concentrated source of B-group vitamins? Legumes are rich in folate, iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium, legumes are nature’s perfect superfood. Are you pregnant, female or of child-bearing age? That’s just one extra reason to enjoy these goodies.

Are you looking for low sodium foods? Maybe you have hypertension, kidney issues, or are feeling a little dehydrated? Legumes are low in sodium, with the sodium content being reduced by a further 41% after draining and rinsing.

Are your bowels feeling a little stuck? Legumes are very high in dietary fibre – both the soluble and insoluble forms, and have resistant starch for colonic health benefits.

Are you looking for ways to reduce your risk of cancer? Legumes are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. Soy beans, for instance, are particularly high in phytoestrogens, with heavy research linking soy foods and/or phytoestrogens with a reduced risk of certain cancers including breast and prostate cancer (one of the leading types of cancers), heart disease, osteoporosis and menopausal problems.

Have you ever wandered why some vegetarian cultures always combine legumes with cereal grains? This is because legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine (which is found in higher amounts in grains). Grains, on the other hand, contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid lysine, which legumes contain.

Fancy a warming lentil soup? It tastes delicious, and was published in the online YMCA magazine.

Gluten Free, One-pot Rich Red Lentil Soup (serves: 8 main) 

Gluten free: Legumes are suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Ingredients:lentil-soup
2 C dried Red lentils, rinsed
1 Brown onion
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 medium Carrots, roughly chopped
1 C Pumpkin (any type), roughly chopped
1.5 T Canola oil
¼ t Curry powder
¼ t Cumin powder
4 C water (can be partly substituted with home-made chicken stock)
1 t Salt
Pepper and lemon, to taste

Method – The fun part:

Sauté the onion in oil until translucent. Stir in the garlic for 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on medium heat for around 20 minutes, or until the lentils have softened. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Extra water can be mixed through depending on your preferred consistency. Use a food processor (hand-held processors work fine) to blend the ingredients together into a smooth texture. To serve, add lemon juice and a sprinkle of pepper to taste.

Nutrition per serve: Energy 855kJ (204 calories), carbohydrates 22g, fat 5g, protein 13g, fibre 9g.

This low GI meal can be enjoyed at lunch or dinner, served with a side of fresh or tinned fish.

Extra vegies, such as celery and cauliflower, can be added to the soup to pack extra nutrition into every scoop. This meal freezes very well.