No time to spare?

Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas don't need to be soaked. In addition, some legumes are "quick-cooking" — meaning they have already been pre-soaked and redried and don't need extra soaking. Finally, canned legumes make quick additions to dishes that don't require long simmering. Just be sure to rinse prepared and canned legumes to remove some of the sodium added during processing.

Adding more legumes to your diet

Consider these ways to incorporate more legumes into your meals and snacks:

  • Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
  • Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
  • Add chickpeas or black beans to salads. If you typically buy a salad at work and no beans are available, bring your own from home in a small container.
  • Snack on a handful of soy nuts rather than on chips or crackers.

If you can't find a particular type of legume in the store, you can easily substitute one type of legume for another. For example, pinto and black beans are good substitutes for red kidney beans. And cannellini, lima beans and navy beans are easily interchangeable. Experiment with what types of legumes you like best in your recipes to make your meals and snacks both nutritious and interesting.

Reducing the gas factor

Beans and other legumes can lead to the formation of intestinal gas. Here are several ways to reduce the flatulence-inducing quality of legumes:

  • Change the water several times during soaking. Don't use the soaking water to cook the beans. The water will have absorbed some of the gas-producing indigestible sugars.
  • Try using canned beans — the canning process eliminates some of the gas-producing sugars.
  • Simmer beans slowly until they are tender. This makes them easier to digest.
  • Try digestive aids, such as Beano, when eating legume dishes to help reduce the amount of gas they produce.

As you add more beans and legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your gastrointestinal system handle the increase in dietary fiber.

Jul. 04, 2014 See more In-depth