Whether you are trying to reduce or eliminate your animal protein intake, cleaning up your diet, or just looking to add variety lentils and legumes are excellent additions to the diet.

Beans and lentils wear dual hats, being both a protein and a complex carbohydrate–something our bodies love.  Their complex nature regulates blood glucose, creating a slow even rise in sugar rather than spiking it as sugars and refined (simple) carbohydrates, making them important for regulating blood sugar.  They are high in protein, fiber, abundant in B vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium.  They are low in fat, calories and have no cholesterol–actually, they lower cholesterol especially in high fat diets.    Lentils and legumes also contain properties that counter cancer causing compounds in the intestines, they help relieve depression and fortify the body overall.

Unfortunately, most legumes are not completes in their amino acid profile, lacking in adequate amounts of tryptophan and methionine.  By adding the right whole grain to the right lentil or legume you can complete their profile.

Food Energetics

Like all foods, lentils and legumes create a post-metabolic phenomenon in the body.  This is simply what they do to the body once digested.  Though each legume and lentil has its own specialties and nature–however we can look at them in as category. They all nourish the Kidneys and adrenal glands. They encourage growth and stimulate the brain, spine and bone marrow–all of these functions are ruled by the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine.  They drain damp excess conditions like edema, phlegm, yeast and obesity.   They calm the mind, settle the nerves and build muscles.  And overall, beans help to influence our personalities by making us adaptable and tolerant–how can you go wrong?

Back to the problem at hand…beans and legumes are an incomplete protein

No worries, match them to the right grain and you can complete the amino acid profile.  We will look at soy later, as it deserves its own category–let’s look at a few lentils and legumes and their matches.

Aduki beans

Highly nutritious and tender.  Aduki’s are small, tender red beans that are used extensively in Japanese, Asian cultures and macrobiotic cooking.  They are used in stews, soups, as a sweet bean paste in mochi, and red bean ice cream.   Energetically, aduki’s are neutral, sweet and sour.  They nourish the Heart,  Small Intestines and Spleen–they tonify, astringe and drain. Fabulous for edema, weight loss and diarrhea.  Stay away from aduki if you are very thin and frail.  Combine with barley a complete protein profile.

Mung beans

Native to India, these little green beans have become a big part of the Chinese diet.  Energetically, mung beans are cool and sweet.  They nourish and drain excess from the GallBladder, Liver, Heart and Stomach.  Very detoxifying use mung beans to treat excess patterns like Summer Heat and high blood pressure and to clear out heavy metals..  They also clear the arteries–wonderful for helping lower cholesterol.   Avoid if you are chronically tired, fatigued have heavy watery diarrhea or are chronically cold.  Combine with barley for a complete protein.

Lentils and peas

Lentils are members of the pea family, and native to India.  They are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, vitamin A.  The grow easily, don’t need to be presoaked to cook and are the easiest legume to digest.  Great starting point if you are new to legumes.   They are good to eat with wheat or peas to make them a complete protein.  Lentils are neutral and sweet.  They nourish the Heart, Kidneys, Spleen and Stomach. Safe for excess and deficiency conditions.  They stimulate the adrenals and increase vitality.  Combine with wheat berries for a full protein profile.

Black beans

Black beans are used heavily in Spanish and Mexican cuisine.  Native to Spain, these beans are packed with nutrition but are very low in lysine.  Black beans energetically are warm and sweet.  They nourish the Kidneys and Spleen are used for treating Kidney disharmonies, backaches, reproductive issues, weak ankles and knees, and hot flashes.  Whole grain rice (no Uncle Ben’s) which is naturally high in lysine is the perfect match for black beans.

Garbanzo beans or chickpeas

Used in Middle Eastern and Basque cooking, chick peas take a little longer to cook.  They are very high in calcium, iron and vitamin A and potassium.  Chickpeas are the stars in recipes like baba ganouj, falafel and hummus. Chickpeas are sweet and neutral. They nourish the Heart, Stomach and Spleen. heart and the stomach. They are a good source of unsaturated fats. Craving hummus now?

With a little creativity, lentils and legumes can become a healthy welcome habit in your diet.

Be well,