Legumes (also known as pulses) are a group of plant foods that have been part of the Greek diet for centuries. They contain a wide variety of nutrients and are very healthy food for people of all ages.
Beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas, form the very foundation of the Greek diet and have done so since ancient times. Over the centuries, Greek households have prepared them in a variety of ways and have been the perfect way to feed large families on islands and villages all around the country.
Fakes (lentils), Fasolada (beans), Revithia (chickpeas), Gigantes (Lima beans), Fava (split peas) and many more traditional Greek dishes are not only ideal during Nistia (Lent) but are fantastic comfort foods all year round, and are super good for us, providing an excellent source of protein, fibre and iron, as well as other essential minerals.
Some scholars have reported that the poor in ancient Athens survived and thrived on a diet consisting almost exclusively of legumes, yet still managed to become some of the most powerful and intelligent people of all times.
Even though Fasolada and Fakes are also referred to as the “poor man’s meat,” as they are an inexpensive source of protein, they are in fact as rich as you can get, as they provide your body with some of the most important vitamins it needs to function well.
The reason why doctors and dietitians worldwide recommend eating legumes regularly is that they truly are an ideal meat substitute, and whereas meat is also a source of cholesterol and saturated fat, legumes are a cholesterol-free food that contains virtually no saturated fat. So opting for a plate of Fakes or Fasolada instead of a steak, two or three times a week promotes healthy cholesterol levels and helps protect against heart disease.
Legumes are also high in dietary fibre, which helps to keep bowels healthy, they are also a source of carbohydrate and have a low GI, which means they are broken down more slowly so you feel fuller for longer. This makes them a particularly good food for preventing and managing diabetes.
Other benefits of legumes include:
- High in B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium
- Good source of iron and folate, which is essential for women of child-bearing age
- Good source of antioxidants
- Low in saturated fat
- As they are full of fibre, they fill us up, assisting in cholesterol control and promoting a healthy bowel.
- A source of carbohydrates for long-lasting energy!
- A great source of plant-based protein.
- Full of vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium.
- Economical and easy to make!