What is a legume?

We frequently hear certain vegetables referred to as legumes. What exactly is the meaning of the term? It refers to plants that bear fruit in pods, for example fava beans which have to be taken from the shell and then peeled. The most recognizable of the legumes is the pea pod. Other legumes are soy nuts, black beans, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), edamame, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, green beans, sugar snap peas and yes, peanuts. For the most part, the outer pod of these vegetables is not eaten.

It is also important to remember that legumes contain many nutrients that people who follow a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet may be lacking. These nutrients include protein, zinc, fiber and folate. For the curious, folate is a water soluble B-vitamin that occurs naturally in certain foods, legumes being one of those.
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