Legumes: A Favorable Protein Alternative
Cindy Collins, PhD, RD
Raquel Rivera, SA
Cancer patients pay special attention to their protein intake. Protein is a necessary macronutrient for survival. It supplies the needed building blocks for antibodies which fight infection, for enzymes and for tissue repair. Usually the first source of protein considered is animal protein. Animal protein is sometimes called heme protein because it contain a blood line. Examples of heme protein are beef, chicken, fish or turkey.
Another source of protein comes from plants. This source of protein is often called non-heme protein. Non-heme protein is not as naturally absorbable by the body but it has other advantages. One particularly good example of a non-heme source is a legume which is also loaded with phytochemicals, soluble fiber, folate (B vitamin), lignans and soponins. Legumes come in many varieties such as kidney, black, yellow split, garbanzos and red lentil; they pack in fantastic nutritional density (per serving).
Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate legumes into your diet:
• dried beans or sprouts on top of a salad
• red lentil, yellow split pea or black beans are great legumes to make soup (recipe below)
• all of the varieties can be used mixed with a grain (brown rice, couscous, wild rice)
• pickle the beans together with apple cider vinegar, spices and extra virgin olive oil
• mix with vegetables in a sauté, picking rainbow assorted vegetables for best nutrition
• puree beans and use as a dip- add in some lemon, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil; season with anti-cancer spices (turmeric, curcumin, ginger, basil)
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Easy Lentil Soup
• 1 cup green lentils
• 36 oz. fat-free, reduced-sodium beef broth
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 leek, trimmed and chopped*
• 2 cups chopped Swiss chard leaves*
• Canola oil spray
• 1 Fuji apple, peeled and diced
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place lentils, broth, carrot, garlic, onion, thyme and bay leaf in a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
2. *For a chunkier soup, add leek at this point. Simmer 20 minutes, then stir in Swiss chard and simmer 20 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, spray a medium non-stick skillet with canola oil and heat oil on medium-high heat. Add apple and sauté until golden on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
4. When lentils are tender, stir in apple and remove bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve as is for a soup with texture. For a creamy soup, purée half in a blender and combine with remaining soup. Serve garnished with crushed pretzels, if desired.
Nutritional Information: Makes 4 servings.Per serving: 238 calories, 0 g. total fat, 42 g. carbohydrate, 15 g. protein, 10 g. dietary fiber, 747 mg. sodium.
• 2 (15-oz.) cans no-salt-added chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
• 5 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/3 cup tahini
• 5 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 2 Tbsp. chickpea liquid
• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• Salt to taste
• Paprika or parsley sprigs for garnish, optional
Place all ingredients except salt and optional garnish in food processor. Process until mixture is coarsely puréed. Add salt to taste. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Garnish with a dash of paprika or parsley sprigs. Makes 10 servings
Per 1/4 cup serving: 144 calories, 7 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 16 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 13 mg sodium.
Three-Bean Salad with Tangy Coriander-Chili Dressing
• 1 can (about 15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 can (about 15 oz.) garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
• 1 can (about 15 oz.) black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 can (about 15 oz.) corn, rinsed and drained (optional, in place of 1 can beans)
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
• 1/2 Tbsp. chili pepper flakes, or to taste
• 3 Tbsp. crushed dried cilantro (coriander leaves)
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Mix beans and corn in large bowl and set aside.
2. In blender, place juice, oil, garlic, chili flakes and cilantro (coriander). Purée until smooth and well blended. Adjust seasonings if needed, adding salt and pepper to taste.
3. Toss beans with dressing. Cover and chill, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
Nutritional Information: Makes 4 1-cup servings.Per serving: 344 calories, 9 g. fat (1 g. saturated fat), 49 g. carbohydrate, 17 g. protein, 17 g. dietary fiber, about 600 mg. sodium.
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