Legumes are a rather neglected food group in the daily diet of both adults and children. This is because the foods we eat are not as diversified as is recommended, or because they are considered to not have a significant nutritional value.
Contrary to popular belief that legumes are the "poor man's food", they are and will always be a valuable food group because of their high protein content (18-22%), fiber (5-8%), B vitamins, iron, potassium and magnesium and should not be excluded from our diets.
Proteins have a well-defined role in the growth and development of children (they support muscles, hair, skin, internal organs), without them this would not be possible. In addition, because antibodies are mostly made up of proteins, they play an important role in supporting our immune system in the fight against infections.
Legumes are a source for energy and provide 80-100 calories / 100 grams, most of which come from protein and the rest from carbohydrates (starch). They are rich in antioxidants, compounds that fight free radicals and help cellular functions.
They are also a source for soluble fiber, which have the property of absorbing water in the stomach and forming a barrier, which helps regulate the transit of the little ones (especially those who have problems with constipation). They contain a small amount of fat, so they are also recommended for children with weight problems.
Proteins of vegetable origin should represent 50% of the total daily protein intake because have they have a lower biological value than that of meat, eggs and dairy due to the fact that they do not contain all the essential amino acids (called ''essential '' because they cannot be synthesized by the body and we need to take them from food sources). Proteins found in legumes have a deficiency of methionine and cysteine, excess of lysine and in order to cover the entire spectrum of amino acids and, implicitly, protein would require that we associate them with cereals.
Let's get acquainted with these healthy legumes!
The most common varieties are white beans and red beans, the darker the color the higher antioxidant content.
Dried beans are also rich in starch, protein, fiber and are an excellent source of iron, potassium, selenium and folic acid.
Peas should be introduced in children's diet because of their high content of vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B9, C, K, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
There are three types of lentils: red, green and brown, the most easily digestible being red, due to its lower fiber content than the others. In lentils we find protein, fiber, vitamin A and C, vitamin B1 and B9.
Chickpeas contain significant amounts of manganese, copper, phosphorus, zinc, folic acid, vitamin A and iron. It is rich in fiber, protein and antioxidants,and as a side note, it is very affordable.
Chickpeas when cooked have a creamy texture and taste similar to hazelnuts and in general are easily accepted by children.
Chickpeas can be cooked with steam or boiled in water and can be served in the form of hummus (chickpea paste), cream soup , for older children it can be baked and offered as a snack.
Soy is the most widespread legume in the world and one of the most studied foods.
It is worth considering because of its content in all essential amino acids, which is quite rare in plant proteins. Thus, soy proteins have a high biological value.