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Nutritional therapist Margaux J. Lewis shows you how to take soups, salads and side-dishes to a whole new level, by adding a handful of oh-so-good-for-you legumes.

1. Lovely lentils

Delicious in a salad or tossed with vegetables, these small but mighty legumes have been enjoyed globally for centuries - they have even found in Egyptian tombs dating to 2400 BC. Enjoyed for their unique flavour and health benefits, lentils are loaded with molybdenum, a vital trace mineral, digestion-friendly fibre, and heart-healthy potassium. If you need to get more iron into your diet, lentils are a great vegetarian source of this important nutrient, along with folate, copper, and tissue-building protein.
Did you know? Studies show that the soluble fibre in lentils lowers cholesterol while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

2. Charming chick peas

Want a natural energy booster? Eat more chick peas! Loaded with B-group vitamins, they will help you power through a busy day. Plus, they are high in fibre, to promote regularity, and a terrific non-dairy source of bone-building calcium and immune-boosting zinc. Add them to salads and soups, whip them with garlic and lemon for a delicious hummus, or snack on them raw.
Did you know? When purchasing canned chick peas, check that the brand is organic and the can is BPA-free - most healthfood stores’ brands state this on the label.

3. Keep eating kidney beans

These are an amazing source of fibre, which keeps your digestive system working well and prevents food cravings. They also supply folate, a vitamin that helps your body form red blood cells; vitamin K, for normal blood clotting; manganese, which helps prevent certain cancers; and protein, to keep tissues healthy and strong.
Did you know? Never eat kidney beans raw: they contain phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that causes severe nausea and vomiting. Soak and cook them first.

4. Beautiful black-eyed peas

These are a great addition to stews, salads, and soups, or serve them as a simple side dish with a little olive oil and sea salt. Full of fibre, potassium, folate, manganese, vitamin A, and protein, black-eyed peas also supply iron, which is needed to carry oxygen through the body to organs, tissues, and cells, and immunity-boosting zinc.
Did you know? The ancient Romans and Greeks preferred black-eyed peas to chickpeas and included them in a variety of delicious dishes.

5. Gotta love lima beans

Also known as butter beans, lima beans’ soft flavour and delicate texture can enhance many dishes, plus they are loaded with nutrients for optimum health, including molybdenum, fibre, folate, protein, and copper, a trace mineral that promotes nerve health, energy production, and healthy skin, hair, and nails. Lima beans are also full of sleep-promoting tryptophan, making them a good bed-time snack.
Did you know? Green baby lima beans are used make the delicious bean paste used in Japanese cakes and desserts.

6. Mad about mung beans

Prized not only for their delicious flavour, mung beans contain nutrients that lower cholesterol and prevent breast cancer, plus isoflavones that regulate hormones, making them a good food for post-menopausal women. They are also rich in tissue-building protein and immune-boosting vitamin C.
Did you know? Mung beans are fabulous with chicken dishes and stir-fries – I also enjoy them with white fish and a spicy curry sauce.

Margaux J. Rathbun, B.S., N.T.P., is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner, media nutritionist, and the creator of Authentic Self Wellness. http://www.authenticselfwellness.com/