The Chinese already cropped soybean some 4000 years ago. Many edible seeds or pods of leguminous species are of Mediterranean origin.
Since World War II, the production of legumes has been considerably increased. To a large extent, this is due to the development of industrial breeding of farm animals and to the use of soybean meal as a proteinic complement to cereals.
The major nutritional function of grain legumes is to provide carbohydrates and proteins. Many diets are still based on cereals and/or roots with a complement of grain legumes, e.g. :
In Asia, rice and soybean complement each other.
Soybean and groundnut are particularly rich in lipids and are also being used to produce vegetal oils.
Legumes consumption usually decreases when that of livestock products increases, unless the virtues of the marvellous legumes are reevaluated and man accepts to be less carnivorous.