What The Hell Is A Legume?

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You might be wondering what the hell a legume is. Let us explain.

A legume is a simple, dry fruit contained within a shed or a pod. The most well-known legumes are peas, beans, peanuts, and alfalfa (we have a full list below).

Bean Legume

No, not THAT bean

Legume Index

Why Aren’t Legumes Paleo?

Phytates bind up minerals in food, thereby preventing your body from utilizing them. This means these foods are not digested. They can also cause inflammation, bloating, indigestion, and gas. Yuck.

Lectins are carb-binding proteins that are relatively “sticky.” They’re difficult for our bodies to break down and therefore cause indigestion. Their desire to bind also leads them to bind with your intestinal lining.

Lectins can also cause leaky gut syndrome, which is when the intestinal lining is broken down, allowing toxins and anti-nutrients to leak into the bloodstream.

Lectins are commonly associated with IBS, Chrohn’s disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and many other issues.

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Bean Legumes

Okay, But Besides That…

Legumes don’t tend to have great nutritional profiles. They’re not bad but they’re not great.

They tend to have a high carbohydrate content for what they do provide. They’re not as bad as processed foods or grains but if weight loss is your goal, there are definitely much better (and paleo) choices out there for you.


What’s Good about Legumes?

Legumes are most famous for their protein content. They tend to be great sources of protein for non-meat eaters. They’re also great sources of minerals and fiber. Because of their fiber content, they don’t spike insulin levels and inhibit fat loss as grains and other simple carbohydrates do.

That said, they’re simply “okay” choices. They’re not the best foods and, while there’s variance in the nutrition provided by different legumes, you can certainly get all the nutrients they contain from other, superior choices. We recommend you do that.

Peanut Legumes

List of Legumes

  • Alfalfa
  • Asparagus bean
  • Asparagus pea
  • Baby lima bean
  • Black bean
  • Black-eyed pea
  • Black turtle bean
  • Boston bean
  • Boston navy bean
  • Broad bean
  • Cannellini bean
  • Chickpeas
  • Chili bean
  • Cranberry bean
  • Dwarf bean
  • Egyptian bean
  • Egyptian white broad bean
  • English bean
  • Fava bean
  • Fava coceira
  • Field pea
  • French green bean
  • Frijol bola roja
  • Frijole negro
  • Great northern bean
  • Green bean
  • Green and yellow peas
  • Kidney bean
  • Lentils
  • Lespedeza
  • Licorice
  • Lima bean
  • Madagascar bean
  • Mexican black bean
  • Mexican red bean
  • Molasses face bean
  • Mung bean
  • Mung pea
  • Mungo bean
  • Navy bean
  • Pea bean
  • Peanut
  • Peruvian bean
  • Pinto bean
  • Red bean
  • Red clover
  • Red eye bean
  • Red kidney bean
  • Rice bean
  • Runner bean
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • Small red bean
  • Snow pea
  • Southern pea
  • Sugar snap pea
  • Soybean
  • Wax bean
  • White vlover
  • White kidney bean
  • White pea bean

The Verdict

Are Legumes Paleo?


Will they kill you? Probably not. They’re certainly better for you than grains but if you want to adhere to a strict paleo regimen, you’ll want to eliminate legumes from your diet.

Sources & References

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/legumes/NU00260
  2. http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/88/10/4857.abstract
  3. http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html
  4. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legume

photo credit: Stuck in Customs | Chiot’s Run | ruurmo

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    • admin says

      Well they’re technically “legumes” – not “nuts.” The “nut” categorization is a misnomer since it’s botanically categorized as a “legume.”

    • says

      I am not quite a full-fledged Paleo enthusiast yet, but I am making the move. I too have a lot of questions about some of the foods that are on the “do not eat” list. Being raised on legumes and seeing them everywhere, I thought you might be interested in this site for more information on phytates.

      I do plan on cutting back on legumes as there are so many other foods that are better as Joel says. I’m seeing more and more of my customers switching to the Paleo diet, so it has peaked my interest. So far, I like what I see. I am a mixed breed of Blackfoot Indian, German, Japanese and Hawaiian, so I don’t expect any problems going full Paleo. The main trigger that is making me switch was my last doctor visit where I was told I was a walking heart attack and he couldn’t believe I was still walking around and functioning. I work out and stay in shape, but apparently it was all the starches and sugars I was eating. The doctor didn’t tell me this, I figured this out on my own using the internet. I was eating steak everyday, but it was the potatoes, rice and snacks that did it to me. Almost everyone I’ve talked to that are on the Paleo diet said they had the same thing and the Paleo diet corrected it. One customer who has been on the Paleo for 3 years said his triglycerides were over 700, but is not under 60. I am about the take another test, so we’ll see. Thanks for such an informative and great website, Joel. I’ll be back!

  1. Sarah says

    I’m trying a couple months of strict paleo but suspect I’ll want to settle on a “mostly” Paleo diet at the end. I’m fine with being gluten free but the legume-free is a harder elimination for me. Though what I never see answered in the Paleo writings I’ve been researching is if sprouting the legume makes it Paleo friendly? Hummus and quinoa especially would be hard for me to give up long term so I’d be happy to know that I could include them if I sprout them or buy them sprouted. Thanks in advance for the answer :)

  2. howlinmama says

    What about the controversy around cashews? I have a nut mix with cashews and have heard that they are technically a legume, but when I did the research, doesn’t quite seem to match up, given how they grow. Any thoughts on this? Would love another opinion…

  3. Tara says

    I had heard some legumes have less phytates/lectins than others. Is this a bunch of malarky? If it was true, I would love to know which have less so if I do enjoy a random legume, I might choose the one that would be the least offensive phytate/lectin-wise. Thanks in advance!!

  4. Wanda says

    What about sprouts? I have a sprout maker and love alfalfa sprouts, if I eat it before it becomes a lugume is it still a lugume?

  5. ron dovzak says

    peanuts are definitely NOT legumes! Legumes are characterized by very high CHO, mod protein and no fat whereas peanuts are very high fat & protein and low CHO; very, very different profile from legumes (beans)……Soy beans & peanuts are very close in their profiles (which is why the name “Soy Bean” is a misnomer)……


  1. […] Peanuts also contain lectins, which are carb-binding proteins that are relatively “sticky.” They’re difficult for our bodies to break down and thus cause indigestion and their binding leads them to bind with your intestinal lining. They can also cause “leaky gut syndrome” which is when it breaks down the intestinal lining and allows other toxins & anti-nutrients to “leak” into the bloodstream. They’re commonly associated with IBS, Chrohn’s disease, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and more. (Source) […]

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