Legumes and Beans: What’s The Difference?

If you are confused when you hear the terms legumes and beans and want to know if they are the same thing or what the difference is, we’re here to help.  Many people confuse these two terms or think that they are mutually exclusive.

A legume is simply a plant with a fruit that grows in the form of a pod, though not all plants with pods are legumes.  Classic legumes include peas, beans, or peanuts.  Typically the pods are not eaten, but things like green beans are an exception.

A bean is just a seed of a certain variety of plant species, but these days we refer to the whole plant as “beans”.  Classic beans include green beans, lima beans, soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, or black-eyed peas.

So, what’s the difference between legumes and beans?

Think of legumes as “automobiles” and beans as “trucks”.  Trucks (beans) are automobiles (legumes), but not all automobiles are trucks.  There are also cars, for example – another kind of automobile.  In other words, beans are legumes but not all legumes are beans.

whether they're beans or legumes, eat them up!

whether they’re beans or legumes, eat them up!

Why Eat Legumes?

Legumes are a very healthy part of your diet.  They are low in fat and have no cholesterol.  They are also high in fiber and supply nutrients such as folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium.  They are also a terrific source of protein outside of meat and dairy, making them a popular choice for vegetarians.  Legumes are one of nature’s super foods indeed.

What’s Good About Beans?

As for beans, they are easy to add to all sorts of dishes.   Mix black beans with brown rice or sweet corn for a tasty side dish.  Add beans to your salad.  Include pinto beans or black beans as a topping option on taco night.  Add beans to nearly any soup or stew for richer flavor and more body.  As an added ingredient, beans enhance flavor and even the kids will eat them, especially the milder varieties like black beans.

There are two main ways to prepare beans.  One is to soak and cook them yourself.  This is simple, cheap, and healthy but takes an hour or so and it does take effort.  The other way is to buy canned beans.  If you do, go for the low sodium variety and rinse them thoroughly with water before using them in a recipe to get rid of any excess salt.

The Bottom Line on Legumes vs. Beans

Remember, beans are legumes, but not all legumes are really beans. Regardless of whether they are legumes or note, legumes like beans are a great source of fiber, protein, iron, and other nutrients that your body needs. Beans are typically low in fat and contain no cholesterol, and beans can be easily added to all sorts of dishes for a tasty and healthy addition.

So what’s the difference between legumes and beans? Now that you know and realize they are healthy, add more beans to your diet today.

Image by Max Williams via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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