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From hummus to minestrone soup, lentil salad to felafel, legumes, in a myriad of forms are truly the pulse of the Mediterranean diet. High in protein, low in fat and amongst the highest fibre sources of carbohydrate, legumes are a uniformly low GI group of foods. Coming from the pea family, peas, beans, and their seeds (found in the bean pods) including chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, butter beans and even broad beans are all examples of legumes. The dried seeds are viewed nutritionally as a meat alternative because they provide many nutrients typically found in animal proteins such as iron, zinc, magnesium, copper and phosphorus as well as a range of B-vitamins.

This month’s shopping guide profiles a range of legumes. Fortunately, canned varieties retain low GI values and make it quick and easy to add them to the diet.

For people with diabetes
To those of you who count your carbohydrate intake in grams, exchanges or portions, we have included the details for each of these.
15g carbohydrate exchange – a serve containing 12-18g carbohydrate.
10g carbohydrate portion – a serve containing 7.6-12.5g carbohydrate.
Serving size, ½ cup (approximately 85g/3oz)
Variety GI Energy Available carbohydrate Exchanges Portions Glycemic load
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas) dried, boiled  43
(mean of 4 studies)
422kJ/101Cal 16g  1 1.5 7
Butter beans, dried, boiled    30 (mean of 4 studies) 384kJ/92Cal 12g  1 1 4
Butter beans, canned, drained  36  356kJ/ 85Cal  11g  0.5  4
Broad/fava beans (cooked from frozen)  63  216kJ/52Cal  2g  <0.5  <0.5  1
Chickpeas, canned and drained  37 (Mean of 2 studies)  395kJ/94Cal  12g  1 1 4
Chickpeas, dried, boiled  25
(Mean of 5 studies) 
428kJ/102Cal  12g  1 1 3
Kidney beans, dried, boiled  36
(mean of 8 studies) 
292kJ/ 70Cal  7g  0.5  0.5  3
Kidney beans, canned, drained  40
(means of 2 studies) 
349kJ/ 83Cal  12g  1 1 5
Lentils, boiled  16
(mean of 8 foods) 
517kJ/124Cal  17g 1.5  3
Lentils, brown, canned and drained  42  365kJ/87Cal  12g  1 1 5
Fresh green peas, cooked from frozen

(mean of 2 studies) 
206kJ/49Cal  5g  <0.5  0.5 2
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Kaye Foster-Powell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who has worked with people with diabetes for 30 years. She was co-author of the original series of international, best-selling books on the glycemic index. She conducts a specialized private practice for people with diabetes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia.

Contact: Via her website.