Starchy legumes in human nutrition, health and culture

Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1993 Nov;44(3):195-211. doi: 10.1007/BF01088314.


Starchy legumes have been consumed by humans since the earliest practice of agriculture and have been ascribed medicinal and cultural as well as nutritional roles. They are an important component of the diet in the developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia where they are especially valuable as a source of dietary protein to complement cereals, starchy roots and tubers. Legumes contain 20-30% protein which is generally rich in lysine and limiting in sulfur amino acids. The nutritional quality of legume protein is limited by the presence of both heat labile and heat stable antinutrients as well as an inherent resistance to digestion of the major globulins. In addition to its nutritional impact, legume protein has been shown to reduce plasma low density lipoprotein when consumed. Legume starch is more slowly digested than starch from cereals and tubers and produces less abrupt changes in plasma glucose and insulin upon ingestion. Starchy legumes are also valuable sources of dietary fiber as well as thiamin and riboflavin. Starchy legumes are a valuable component of a prudent diet, but their consumption is constrained by low yields, the lack of convenient food applications, and flatulence.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Culture*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Fabaceae*
  • Health*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Starch / administration & dosage


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Starch