To help or prevent certain health problems and adequately feed people, there is a need for added contributions from legumes. Legumes produce primary and secondary metabolites and other phytochemicals such as nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and industrial products. In addition, legumes such as hyacinth bean seed contain nearly 10% more fiber while winged bean contains three times more fiber than common bean. The potential breast cancer fighting chemical known as kievitone is found in hyacinth bean but not in common bean nor soybean. Both agmatine and isovitexin are potential combatants of microbial organisms in mammals including humans. Agmatine and isovitexin are not found in soybean nor common bean, however they exist in winged bean. Studies regarding value added traits such as the bio-functional and biologically active components of legumes have only recently begun because most specialty phytochemicals are extracted from other plant sources. Not only can bio-functional legumes provide healthy food constituents for use as nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and pesticidals, but they can increase healthy food resources worldwide. Bio-functional legumes have been used in the past primarily for forage, pasture, minor food, green manuring, and erosion control. Current uses include these previously mentioned plus some fairly new ones such as hyacinth bean used as an ornamental and wildlife food. The future for these common bean relatives is for use in the health markets as new medicines or nutraceuticals and to provide farmers with additional crop production as phytopharmaceutical or nutraceutical crops.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2