On Focus: Legumes

  • 2017-04-27
  • Food Science & Technology

In Europe, legumes are celebrating a comeback in human nutrition, with the market rapidly growing since the 2000s. Although they have been around in Europe for a long time, they have nearly been forgotten as an important source of energy. Prominent representatives are peas, buckwheat, chickpeas, lentils, but also groundnut and alfalfa. Legumes constitute approximately 7% of flowering plant species and are thus the third-largest plant family. Archaeological evidence traces the first use of legumes back to the time of 3300BC in India (Punjab).

India is still the key producer of legumes and accounts for about 25% of the worldwide production. However, Asia is the overall main producer of legumes. Other important producers are Argentina and the USA (mainly through soy bean for animal feed). The annual total production lies around 70 million tonnes. In general, legumes still form an important part of human nutrition in the developing world and deliver there about 10% of the daily energy intake.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an intake of 3 cups (6 servings) of legumes per week for people with a caloric consumption of around 2,000 kcal/day and the Indian government suggest about 40g per day. The consumption of legumes is linked to several health benefits. Legumes bring higher satiety levels, a decrease of glycaemic index, and are high in fibre and protein, which fit in with the current trend of foods that are high in protein. Further, they are also rich in vitamins, such as folic acid, thiamine, niacin, and they are also rich in minerals.