Which Legume Packs The Biggest Antioxidant Punch?

Molecules called free radicals can not only contribute to the aging process, but they may also may play a significant role in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. However, antioxidants in food are chemicals that help to stop or limit the damage caused by these nasty free radicals. We know that legumes (beans, peas etc) are pretty rich in antioxidants, but which takes the top prize for providing us with the most? Let’s see…

A 2014 Chinese study 1 compared the following common legumes:

  • pinto beans
  • cowpeas
  • baby lima beans
  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • small red beans
  • red kidney beans
  • black beans
  • navy beans
  • mung beans

The following chart (borrowed from Dr Greger’s video 2  on this subject from the above study shows the results when comparing for levels of TAC (total antioxidant capacity):

As you can see, chickpeas and lentils lead the pack.

The following chart from the above study shows which legume is best at scavenging up free radicals:

Again, lentils are at the top of the pack. Dr Greger suggests that this might be because of their relatively large surface area – and it’s the outer protective layers where lots of the antioxidants are normally kept.

Final thoughts

So, if you want to get the maximum benefits of the antioxidant power of legumes, pack in those chickpeas and lentils to your heart’s content – quite literally!

There are plenty of green light recipes for lentils on the internet, including some on my list of recipes ideas: in Side Dishes  – Lentil Crispies; in Soups and Stews:  Moroccan Lentil Soup, Brown Lentil Soup, Easy Kale & Lentil Soup, Lentil & Tomato Stew, Curried Red Lentil Soup, Brown Lentil Stew With Corn and Green Peas, Butternut Squash Soup with Lentils, Lentil Stew with Braised Greens, Curried Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup; in Mains – Lentil and Cauliflower Rice Tacos, Savoury Vegan Lentil Loaf. Add them to any meal, especially curries.

And green light recipes abound for chickpeas: in Breakfasts – Chickpea Omelette; in Salads –  Tu-no Salad Wraps, Quinoa & Chickpea Salad, Perfect Chickpea Salad; in Soups and Stews – Moroccan Red Lentil Soup, Hearty Red Bean & Chickpea Stew, Squash & Chickpea Stew; in Mains – Chickpea Dhal, Chickpea Curry with Asparagus & Mushrooms, S & Y’s Chilli with….vegetables!! ,or simply in that staple, stand-by essential, good old houmous/humus/hummus – no matter how you spell it, just have lashings of it in your fridge ready for adding to all sorts of meals, or just spreading it out on baked potatoes and bread, or scooping it out with celery sticks.

This is one of the joys of eating WFPB diets – you can eat as much as you want of the good stuff without causing any side effects other than good health!



  1. Zhao Y, Du SK, Wang H, Cai M. In vitro antioxidant activity of extracts from common legumes. Food Chem. 2014;152:462-6. []
  2. Benefits of Lentils and Chickpeas. Michael Greger M.D. FACLM August 10th, 2018 Volume 43 []