Legumes and Pulses

Legumes and Pulses

Besides being economical and versatile, legumes provide excellent nutritional value.

Legumes and pulses come in various shapes and colours. Sometimes called “dried beans,” they are the dried seeds from plants that produce seedpods. Here are a few varieties:

  • Dried beans: red, white, black, pinto, adzuki, Lima, mung, fava, soybeans, etc.
  • Dried peas: whole, split, chickpeas, etc.
  • Lentils: green, red, brown, etc.

Why include them in your menus?

Besides being economical and versatile, legumes provide excellent nutritional value. They are:

  • High in carbohydrates and protein. Consequently, they are considered both a starch and a meat alternative.
  • Low in fat and saturated fats. Thus, they are a beneficial meat alternative.
  • Very high in dietary fibre, which contributes to their satiating effect (that full feeling), and are therefore helpful in controlling blood sugar and preventing cardiovascular disease.
  • High in vitamins and minerals, including an excellent source of iron (if eaten with a source of vitamin C).

Diets high in dietary pulses help reduce blood pressure and control body weight in people with and without diabetes.

How to cook them

Legumes are a good meat replacement. They add protein to vegetable soups, thicken a soup, replace all or some of the meat in your favourite dishes (shepherd’s pie, spaghetti sauce, etc.) and can even be added to salads or dips.

Canned legumes

Cooked canned legumes are a practical and quick way to use them. The water they are cooked in is high in salt but all you have to do is discard this water and rinse well to eliminate the excess salt. By doing so, you also get rid of the sugars that cause intestinal gas.

Preparing dried legumes

At the store, select firm, shiny and brightly coloured legumes. Dried legumes keep for a long time when protected from heat, light and humidity.


Before cooking dried legumes, you must first:

  • Sort them to remove any that are broken
  • Rinse them to remove any impurities
  • Soak them in three times their volume of cold water.

Soak legumes in the fridge for six to eight hours, or overnight, and then discard the water. Do not use the soak water to cook the legumes. You don’t have to soak lentils or split peas; simply rinse them.


To reduce soaking time, boil legumes for two minutes, take them off the heat and let them rest in the hot water for an hour. Discard the soak water and use fresh water for cooking.


Cooking time varies by type of legume:

Legume Cooking time
Beans 1 to 1,5 hours
Whole peas 1,5 to 2 hours
Split peas 45 minutes
Lentils* 30 minutes
Chickpeas 1,5 to 2 hours

* Red and French lentils cook in only 10 minutes.


Once cooked and drained, legumes keep for five days in a hermetically sealed container in the fridge, or up to six months in the freezer.

To prevent intestinal discomfort

Some people find that legumes make them bloated or gaseous. Here are some tips to reduce or eliminate these annoying side effects:

  • If you use canned legumes, discard the water in the can and rinse them well.
  • If you use dried legumes:
    • Before cooking, soak the legumes in the fridge rather than at room temperature.
    • Be sure to discard the soak water.
    • Cook them longer: legumes should crush easily with a fork.
  • Gradually increase the frequency and quantity of the legumes you eat. As your intestines adapt over time to more dietary fibre, problems with gas should subside.
  • Avoid eating very sweet foods with a meal containing legumes.
  • When you eat legumes, avoid eating other foods that can cause flatulence, such as broccoli, cabbage, etc.

There are drops and tablets on the market that help prevent intestinal gas (e.g.: Beano®). They can be found on drugstore shelves. Ask your pharmacist if such a product is safe to take with your medication.


Research and adaptation: Diabetes Québec Team of Dietitians

Adapted from: Lévesque, Danielle and Trudeau, Lysanne, Dietitians, (Fall 1994) “À la découverte des légumineuses.” Plein Soleil, Diabetes Québec, pp. 110-116.

Other reference: Sievenpiper J, Chan C, Dworatzek P et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Nutrition Therapy. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S64-S79.

December 2014 (updated on July 2018)

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