Legumes vs beans vs pulses

Legumes vs Beans vs Pulses: Which is Better for Your Health?

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I bet you have heard someone say that beans are healthier for you than legumes, and vice versa. Many people can’t tell the difference between the two! And what exactly are pulses? In this article, we’ll break down what they mean when they talk about legumes vs beans, and which one, if any of them is better for your health.

Legumes vs beans what's the difference?
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What’s the difference between beans and legumes and pulses?

Legumes are plants that bear their fruit in pods, which are casings with two halves, or hinges. Legumes are a very healthy food because they are low in fat, naturally cholesterol free, and high in protein. Legumes are also very high in fiber and other nutrients.

The word legume generally refers to all plants and vegetables from the leguminous family of the Fabaceae plants. This includes soybeans, peas, lentils and peanuts but also other less common types such as cowpeas (black-eyed peas) or chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

Beans, on the other hand, are the edible seed of leguminous plants like black beans or kidney beans. The term “bean” refers to one of the categories of legume seeds.

A pulse is any dried legume such as chickpeas or cowpeas (black-eyed peas).

Thus, the 6 main types of legumes are made up of:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Lupins

Therefore, it follows that beans and pulses are legumes, but legumes are not always beans or pulses. For example, lentils are legumes but they’re not considered to be a bean because their seed is in the shape of a lens and it’s small. And peas don’t have seeds at all! In another example, a pea pod is considered a legume, but the pea inside the pod is the pulse. 

Another way to tell the difference between these nutritional powerhouses is that the term legume often refers to plants with seeds in pods, not just beans.

Is a legume a bean?

Legume is the umbrella term that includes beans and pulses. Which means that all beans are considered a legume, but not all legumes are considered beans. Therefore, there should not be a legumes vs beans showdown, since they’re all just as nutritious!

Are beans legumes?

legumes vs beans
Lentils, beans and chickpeas are just different categories of legumes

As we have just seen, legumes are not the same as beans! Beans are just one type of legume – for example soybeans may be considered legumous because they originate from the Fabaceae family. But even though it is called “soybean,” it’s still a legume.

Which beans are legumes?

All beans are part of the Fabaceae family. These are some examples of the many beans available to us:

  • White beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Black beans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Soybeans
  • Asparagus beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Sugar snap peas

Beans are a great replacement for meat as a source of vegetarian and vegan protein. They’re also packed with important nutrients that help promote health. As this research paper states:

“Beans are rich in a number of important micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc, and are important sources of protein in vegetarian diets. In particular, they are among the only plant foods that provide significant amounts of the indispensable amino acid lysine. Commonly consumed dried beans are also rich in total and soluble fiber as well as in resistant starch, all of which contribute to the low glycemic index of these foods. They also provide ample amounts of polyphenols, many of which are potent antioxidants”.

Difference Between Legumes and Pulses

Since legume is the broader term for these foods, we can now understand that not all legumes are pulses–however, pulses are one part of the legume group, just like beans. The different types of pulses include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Dry Beans
  • Dry peas

Pulses are an excellent source of plant-based protein. In fact, they have about 2-3 times as much protein per serving as cereal grains such as rice, oats, barley, and wheat. For example, 1 cup of chickpeas has 14 grams of protein, whereas 1 cup of brown rice has 4 grams. Pulses also provide soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and resistant starch. These types of fiber can aid in digestion and help improve gut health and motility.

Why eat legumes and beans and pulses?

legumes list
Legumes are a versatile, inexpensive and delicious way to add more health promoting nutrients to your diet

There are plenty of reasons to eat beans and legumes. First of all, legumes, beans and pulses are widely available, economical, versatile, and highly nutritious.

A high intake plant based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds is linked to significantly lower risks of:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes

Legumes have protein, calcium and a range of B vitamins. Beans are also packed with nutrients like fiber, potassium, iron and magnesium. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, legumes can provide the same amount of protein as meat without all the cholesterol! In fact there’s around 15 grams of protein in a cup of legumes!

Legumes are a great source of fiber, which is important for healthy digestion, as we saw above – but this isn’t all legumes have to offer! Beans also contain soluble fibers that reduce cholesterol absorption in the gut, making them an ideal food choice if you’re looking to improve your heart health.

Legumes vs beans: they’re all great for your health

In fact, numerous studies have explored plant-based dietary patterns, as well as specific foods and components, to identify the role of key nutrients in the prevention, protection, and reversal of cardiometabolic diseases. Plant-based eating patterns, such as the vegetarian or “flexitarian” diet, focus on the concept of zero to little animal products, with the main intake of food coming from plant sources.

Other widely recognized diets that heavily emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices, and plant oils, include:

If you want to follow a more plant based eating pattern, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend that in order to meet protein requirements, an additional 6 oz-eq/wk of legumes and 8 oz-eq/wk soy products should be consumed for those following a 2000 calorie/day Healthy Vegetarian Eating Plan.

Where to buy legumes?

Legumes, beans and pulses can be found anywhere that sells food. You can find them dried, canned, or fresh in any supermarket. They can also be found in snack form, such as these crunchy fava beans:

You can also find bean based pasta made from edamame, soybeans, or black soybeans, which are perfect for vegan and gluten free diets:

And if you love veggie burgers, here’s a great black bean, lentil, green pea and chickpea based option that’s high in plant based protein and fiber:

Conclusion

In short, we now know that legumes are the general term that refers to the beans and seeds from these types of plants. And that when it comes down to legumes vs beans vs pulses, they all provide an impressive amount of nutrients that help protect your heath. And now I’d like to know, which is your favorite way to add legumes, beans and pulses to your meals? Let’s swap ideas below in the comments section!

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