Legumes are plants of the pea and bean family that have seeds in pods, distinctive flowers and typically root nodules containing symbiotic bacteria able to fix nitrogen. Peanuts are a legume (definitely not a 'nut'); coffee 'beans' are actually a berry, not a legume.

1.  legumes contain alkaloids that the plant family has evolved to protect them from insect attack.
     These alkaloids are also toxic - in varying degrees - to humans

2.  these toxins can be broken down by cooking; and there is no evidence that suitably cooked legumes harm humans

3.  the fact that cooking is required to render legumes harmless is the criterion used to exclude them from a Palaeo diet.
     This does not apply to meat as:
     (i)  meat can be eaten uncooked
     (ii) beans require neolithic cooking technology - a cooking pot.

Uncooked snow peas are often added to salads in contemporary Western cuisine without cautions or apparent ill effects. This success encourages many Palaeo eaters to grant an exemption to snow peas from the general proscription on legumes.

More information about the exclusion of legumes from a palaeo diet in Ben Balzar's paper.

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