What is a legume-based diet? A balanced diet, rich in fibre

Legumes are foods rich in protein, fibers and nutrients: here is what you should know

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By Alex

legume-based diet

The legume-based diet is a type of Mediterranean diet that involves a higher consumption of beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and various other legumes, without giving up on all other types of foods.

Legumes are an excellent plant-based protein source that everyone should include in their diet at least a couple of times a week, replacing meat and fish. They are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. As you may have hinted, it’s a highly flexible diet, not the typical stricy diet. But let’s see specifically what this type of diet entails.

Principles of a Legume-Based Diet

As the name suggests, the legume-based diet is a dietary regimen that involves more frequent consumption of legumes compared to a typical diet.

If weight loss is a goal, in addition to the types of foods consumed, it’s crucial to consider calorie intake. Therefore, to burn fat relatively quickly, it’s essential to be in a caloric deficit, meaning introducing fewer calories than those consumed.

Legumes, being a plant-based protein source, should be a regular part of everyone’s diet, replacing meat and fish 2-3 times a week. In the legume-based diet, the presence of these foods becomes predominant, not only promoting weight loss but also providing a satisfying feeling due to their rich fiber content.

Moreover, this dietary regimen allows for a variety of choices as there are many types of legumes. Here are the most common ones:

  • Black beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Fava beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Mung beans
  • Cranberry beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Adzuki beans
  • Lentils
  • Broad beans
  • Peas
  • Lupins
  • Chickling vetch
  • Soy and its derivatives, such as tofu, edamame, and tempeh

How the Legume-Based Diet Works

It is a dietary regimen based on a high consumption of legumes but also includes all other food categories: carbohydrates, meat, fish, lean dairy (preferably), eggs, and of course, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

In practice, we can define this type of diet as a Mediterranean-style dietary regimen that involves:

  • Frequently eating various legume varieties
  • Consuming whole grains
  • Eating animal proteins but in moderation and favoring lean cuts

What to Eat During the Legume-Based Diet

As the name suggests, the legume-based diet involves a significant consumption of legumes. Since there are numerous types of legumes, it’s ideal to vary them as much as possible, incorporating different species each day.

The options are extensive, including:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Broad beans
  • Soy
  • Lupins
  • All the different kind of beans

Moreover, the legume-based diet is not a mono-food diet (which would be monotonous, unbalanced, and unhealthy). This diet allows for the consumption of all other food categories:

  • Carbohydrates, with a preference for whole grains
  • Fresh and cooked vegetables, including soups and veloutés
  • Lean meat, especially white meat like chicken
  • Lean fish
  • Lean dairy products like ricotta and curd
  • Eggs
  • Seasonal fruits
  • Extra virgin olive oil

If well-structured and followed correctly, the legume-based diet can be balanced and sustainable in the long run.

Weight Loss with the Legume-Based Diet

As emphasized, there are no “weight-loss” or “negative-calorie” foods, and the same applies to legumes. In the legume-based diet, weight loss occurs not because beans and peas are consumed frequently, but due to the caloric deficit, especially when combined with consistent and regular physical activity.

Following this strategy, it’s possible to lose 0.5-1% of body weight per week.

The legume-based diet is indeed a significant aid when following a hypocaloric diet, as the high satiating power of legumes encourages eating less.

Benefits of the Legume-Based Diet

A diet primarily based on legumes offers numerous health benefits:

  • Promotes a sense of satiety due to its high fiber content
  • Helps combat constipation
  • Combats “bad” cholesterol (LDL) with the presence of saponins and prevents its assimilation
  • Helps lower blood triglyceride levels
  • Abounds in important micronutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, iron, and calcium

Finally, it’s worth noting that legumes are gluten-free, making them suitable for those with celiac disease.

legume-based diet
Minestrone is a pillar of a legume-based diet: it is an Italian vegetable soup that typically contains a variety of vegetables, beans, other legumes and pasta or rice.

Legume-Based Diet: Sample Menu

Now that we’ve explored the basics of a legume-based diet, let’s suggest what to eat during different meals of the day with some practical examples.

Breakfast

Unsweetened tea or coffee and then, choose from:

  • Partially skimmed milk + cereal
  • Partially skimmed milk + 3 whole-grain rusks with no added sugar jam
  • Low-fat yogurt + whole-grain cereal

Lunch

Pick one of the following options (and ideally alternate every day):

  • Pasta and beans + mixed vegetables, cooked or raw
  • Rice and lentils + seasonal vegetables of choice
  • Pasta and chickpeas + sautéed zucchini
  • Couscous with chickpeas and cherry tomatoes
  • Lentil pasta dressed with olive oil and grated cheese + carrot salad

Dinner

Pick one of the following options:

  • Grilled chicken breast + seasonal salad + a small whole-grain sandwich
  • Baked fish with vegetables and a small whole-grain roll
  • Bean and vegetable soup
  • Chickpea flour omelet + mixed cooked vegetables as a side + a small whole-grain roll
  • Bean, tuna, and onion salad + a small whole-grain sandwich
  • Ricotta cheese + green bean salad + a small whole-grain roll
  • Bresaola with arugula and a small whole-grain roll

Snacks

For mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, choose from:

  • 1 seasonal fruit

Contraindications

The most significant potential side effect of this type of diet is gastrointestinal. Eating legumes too frequently can cause abdominal bloating, flatulence, and digestive difficulties.

However, to make legumes more digestible, the trick is to cook them with spices. In the case of dried legumes, it’s crucial to soak them for a relatively long time (at least 12 hours) before cooking.

Questions and Answers

We will conclude this article by answering some of the questions you often ask about legumes.

How often should I eat legumes to lose weight?

Legumes are an excellent alternative to animal proteins that everyone, regardless of the desire or need to lose weight, should include in their diet 3-4 times a week. An average serving of legumes is about 150 grams.

Which legumes don’t cause weight gain?

Legumes are great substitutes for animal proteins and are generally low in calories. In the right quantities, when included in a healthy, varied, and balanced diet, they do not cause weight gain. However, the least calorie-dense are peas, providing only 42 kcal per 100 grams.

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