29 Sept 2022

Healthy Living: Limerick's legendary legumes

Healthy Living: Limerick's  legendary legumes

Legumes which includes peas, beans and nuts are popular in Middle Eastern and Asian foods                                                                                                              

ONE OF my favourite foods are the legumes: beans and lentils. Now, if you are like me, making low levels of an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase, thus having a hard time digesting legumes, fear not, there are simple tricks to help you reap their many health benefits.
Legumes have low sugars and higher protein content, making them ideal for blood sugar balance, weight and appetite control. High resistant starch content helps to nourish your gut flora and along with their fibres they regulate bowel movements – help to prevent colon cancer.
Legumes also contain phytoestrogens, plant chemicals with a similar structure to our oestrogen, thus helping to gently balance female hormones. In perimenopause they help the transition and help to keep the bones strong.


If legumes were not a big part of your diet growing up, it is advisable to start introductions slowly and gradual, allowing your digestive system to get used to them. You can buy bean digesting enzyme supplements in health stores for further support. Red lentils and yellow peas that have their outer coatings removed are probably the best to experiment with first. You can buy pasta made of these in all shapes, great gluten free, satisfying alternatives to regular wheat versions. Many can eat chickpeas without issues, others may need to soak them overnight and cook them with baking soda to increase digestibility. I love the recipe below by my favourite chef from Jerusalem, where they would eat hummus every day without fail.
Once you are more comfortable, introduce them cooked or sprouted, as salads, dips, stews, soups, pasta replacements – the variety is fantastic, and that is the base of a diverse gut flora and overall health!

The Best Ever Hummus – by Yotam Ottolenghi
250 g dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 litres water
270 g light tahini paste
4 tbsp freshly lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
100 ml ice-cold water
1 and ½ tsp Salt

Soak the chickpeas overnight in water at least twice their volume. Drain and place them into a medium saucepan over high heat, add the baking soda and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly
. Add the water and bring to a boil, then simmer skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface until they become very soft, 20 to 40 minutes or longer, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Drain and cool them, then add to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients except the water, and process until you get a stiff paste.
Then, with the machine still running, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to blend for about 5 minutes, until very smooth and creamy. Let it rest covered for at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Zaatar mix or smoked paprika or herbs of your choice.
Try it with red or basil pesto, or blend in fresh chopped herbs, or roast peppers from a jar, or curry powder, or smoked paprika – for variety.

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