Difference Between Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are often mistakenly considered synonymous due to their relationship, but they refer to entirely different things.


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They have similar characteristics, including their appearance, nutritional content, and geographical distribution, which only adds to the confusion about these two kinds of grains.

Key Takeaways

  1. Beans are a specific type of legume with a seedpod split in half, while legumes are a family of plants that produce edible seeds or pods.
  2. Beans are commonly used in chili and refried beans, while legumes like lentils and chickpeas are used in soups and curries.
  3. Beans and legumes are nutrient-dense foods high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.

Beans vs Legumes

Beans are a specific type of legume that are grown for their edible seeds. Legumes are a family of plants that include beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts, among others, and are characterized by their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, which means they can contribute to soil fertility.

Beans vs Legumes

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Legumes refer to the plants of the Fabaceae family, which will bear a pod that splits into both sides and contains between one and twelve fruits or seeds.

Beans, however, are one type of seed of these plants belonging to a specific Fabaceae family genus known as phaseolus.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonBeansLegumes
Scientific groupingFrom the general phaseolusFrom the Fabaceae plant
Worldwide varieties4000018000
Vitamin/mineral contentProtein, copper, manganese, vitamins B1, B6, E, and KThiamine, riboflavin, folate, iron, magnesium
Commonly found and cultivated inMexico, Central, and South AmericaIndia and western Asia
PreparationMust be soaked for 12+ hoursFresh, dried, sprouted, canned, roasted, pureed
ExamplesKidney, black, lima, mungLentils, beans, peanuts, peas


What are Beans?

There are approximately forty thousand different species of beans held at genebanks worldwide. However, only a tiny handful of them are farmed for mass production.

Every variety of bean is a legume as it comes from the pods of a flowering Fabaceae plant. However, green and lima beans are not considered to be in the same category nutrition-wise as other legumes.

Due to their high vitamin, mineral, and fibre content, beans are often classified as a vegetable, and their high phytonutrient levels are believed to play a role in helping to fight chronic disease.

What sets them apart from most vegetables and confirms their reputation as somewhat of a “superfood” is the relatively high levels of protein they typically contain.

A quarter cup of cooked black beans has the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat. However, beans lack a few amino acids compared to animal meats and are therefore considered a lesser quality protein.

When preparing beans, it is essential to soak them for at least twelve hours before cooking and rinsing them off or changing the water at least twice before cooking.

This is because wide varieties of beans have an outer membrane that will limit mineral absorption or even be toxic in humans if not removed before consumption.

The most common method to cook the beans after soaking is to boil them on a stove, but it is also possible to bake or fry beans.

Pinto, black, kidney, and fava are some of the most commonly known types of beans.


What are Legumes?

Worldwide there are approximately eighteen thousand different species of legumes, which refers to the plant of the Fabaceae family.

Legumes in the context of food can also refer to the fruit of these plants.

Legumes farmed and eaten by humans, such as peas, lentils, and soybeans, are called pulses, whereas forage legumes are grown as livestock feed, such as alfalfa and clover.

The word legume comes from the French word for vegetable and can be defined as a herbaceous plant, shrub, tree or vine, with one to twelve seeds inside a pod that splits down both sides when ripe.

The nutritional value of legumes is enormous, and for that reason, they are known as the original superfood. They contain zero fat or cholesterol, high fibre, protein, and vitamins.

Another critical point is the legume’s role in crop rotation for agriculturists.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria housed in nodules on the roots of the Fabaceae plant transform atmospheric nitrogen into fertilizer for crops planted after harvesting the legume.

Legumes other than beans do not necessarily need to be soaked and boiled and can be consumed fresh, dried, canned, sprouted, roasted, or pureed.

Lentils, beans, peanuts, and peas are all universally recognized and consumed legumes.


Main Differences Between Beans and Legumes

  1. Legumes are plants of the Fabaceae family with pods that split into both sides and contain up to a dozen seeds. Beans are a type of these seeds from the genera Phaseolus plants.
  2. There are approximately forty thousand varieties of beans held in different gene banks across the globe, whereas there are about eighteen thousand legumes.
  3. Legumes contain thiamine, riboflavin, folate, iron, and magnesium, whereas beans specifically have high levels of protein, copper, manganese, and vitamins B1, B6, and K.
  4. India and western Asia are the world’s highest-producing and consuming areas of legumes (primarily lentils and chickpeas). In contrast, beans are most commonly found in Mexico and Central and South America.
  5. Beans must be soaked for a minimum of twelve hours before cooking, which is almost always done by boiling, whereas legumes have many more options for preparation.
  6. Legumes cover many food products, such as peas, peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Common beans include kidney, black, fava, and string beans.
Difference Between Beans and Legumes
  1. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:113666/ATTACHMENT01
  2. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19801862058
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