There is a good chance that you have heard of them and an even greater chance that you had them on your plate at some time or another. But what exactly are legumes and what are the benefits of legumes? These vegetables contain fiber and protein, in addition to a variety of vitamins and minerals. They are low in calories and a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets worldwide. However, legumes have been fraught with controversy because they contain compounds called antinutrients, which interfere with nutrient absorption. Fortunately, there are methods that can be used to minimize the effects of these antinutrients, allowing you to reap all the benefits and nutrition of this versatile ingredient.
What are Legumes?
So, what are legumes? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of legumes is: “the fruit or seed of plants in the legume family (such as peas or beans) used for food.” This definition of legumes encompasses the fruit or seed of any plant in the Fabaceae family. This makes it a bit complicated to define exactly what legumes are, since this family of plants includes 19,500 different species. Although there are thousands of different types of legumes, some of the most common legume varieties include:
- Green beans
- White beans
Keep in mind that peanuts are the only variety of nuts included in this list, this is because, unlike other types of nuts, peanuts grow underground and belong to the Fabaceae family of plants. Legumes have long been a staple food in many cultures, with some evidence showing that they began to rapidly diversify to form different species between 2 and 4 million years ago in the Andes. Even today, however, beans and legumes are essential dietary components worldwide. From South America to Asia and beyond, millions of people rely on the affordability, convenience and nutritional density of legumes every day.
What are Legumes Good for? Legume Benefits
1. High in Protein:
So what are they for and what are the benefits of legumes? For starters, most legumes are full of protein and are considered one of the best sources of protein source plant. Chickpeas and white beans, for example, contain 15 grams of protein per one-cup serving, while white beans contain 19 grams of protein for the same amount.
“Protein is a crucial part of the diet and critical for cell function and muscle growth”.
For this reason, legumes become especially important in vegan and vegetarian diets and are often used as a source of basic protein. When it comes to losing weight, eating enough protein can also encourage feelings of fullness and keep you full while increasing your metabolism and the amount of calories you burn after a meal. Including only a portion of legumes in your daily diet can be a great way to help you meet your protein needs.
2. Promote Regularity:
In addition to its impressive protein content, legume benefits also contain an abundant dose of dietary fiber. One cup of cooked lentils, for example, contains 16 grams of fiber, or up to 64 percent of the recommended daily value. When you eat fiber, it moves through your digestive tract slowly and adds volume to the stool to help its passage. This is especially beneficial when it comes to Constipation; In fact, increasing fiber intake is one of the first lines of defense to help things move. An analysis published in 2012 analyzed five different studies and found that increasing dietary fiber intake could significantly increase stool frequency in participants with constipation. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should increase your fiber intake slowly and make sure you drink a lot of water too. Sudden increases in fiber intake can cause unpleasant symptoms such as gas, cramping or swelling.
3. Help in Weight Loss:
If you are looking to lose a few pounds, you may want to consider adding some servings of legumes to your diet. Legumes are not only rich in fiber and protein, but they can help promote satiety and prevent hunger, but legume consumption has also been linked to weight loss. A published study followed 1,475 participants over a period of eight years. The researchers found that those who ate beans regularly had a lower body weight, a smaller waist size and a 22 percent lower risk of obesity. Legumes are also very nutrient rich foods, which means they are low in calories but provide tons of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in each serving. This facilitates the optimization of the calories you are consuming in a weight loss diet.
4. Boost Heart Health:
It goes without saying that the heart is one of the most important organs of the body; It pumps blood to all the tissues of your body and provides them with the oxygen and nutrients they need to function and thrive. Naturally, protecting the health of your heart is essential, since heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide. Along with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, adding one or two servings of legumes to the dish every day can have a big impact on heart health. A 2011 study showed that a diet rich in legume benefits can lower both total and bad LDL cholesterol. Another study found that eating legumes was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Other research has found additional cardiac benefits for legumes, such as decreased triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammation.
5. Contains Important Vitamins and Minerals:
In addition to being rich in protein and fiber, legumes are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Most legume varieties are rich in micronutrients such as folic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. A cup of lentils, for example, provides 90 percent of your daily folate needs and 37 percent of the iron you need in a day. For this reason, the benefits of legumes are an excellent way to complete a diet that may lack certain nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans, for example, can especially benefit from increased legume intake to ensure their needs for these important micronutrients are met.
6. Stabilize Blood Sugar:
So, what are legumes good for in addition to providing a concentrated dose of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals? Improve heart health; prevent constipation; and helping you lose a few pounds. In addition to all the impressive health benefits mentioned above, legumes are also excellent for regulating blood sugar levels. The large amount of fiber found in legumes works to decrease the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and maintain blood sugar levels. A 2014 study with more than 2,000 participants found that blood sugar levels, among other factors, were lower in those who ate legumes regularly compared to those who did not consume them. Along with low glycemic fruits, non-starchy vegetables and a good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy addition to the diet and can help keep blood sugar stable.
Side Effects of Legume Benefits:
Although legumes are loaded with health benefits, there are also some drawbacks to include them in your diet that should be taken into account. Legumes contain “antinutrients” or compounds that can interfere with the absorption of important micronutrients such as iron and calcium. The most prevalent antinutrient found in legumes is phytic acid, the main form of phosphorus storage, found in foods such as cereals, legumes and nuts. The problem is that phytic acid can bind and prevent the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron, calcium zinc, magnesium and manganese; Over time, this can cause nutrient deficiencies for people who frequently eat legumes. However, keep in mind that it is much more likely to affect vegetarians than those who eat meat, in fact, nutrient deficiencies as a result of phytic acid really only affect those with a diet composed mainly of cereals, legumes and cereals. Lectins are another type of antinutrient found in legumes. Lectins resist digestion and can even damage the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Fortunately, by practicing the proper preparation techniques, the harmful effects of the antinutrients found in legumes can be minimized.
The Best Way to Eat and Access the Benefits of Legumes:
To take full advantage of the health promotion effects of legumes, proper preparation is key. Certain cooking methods can reduce the negative effects of antinutrients while improving the nutritional profile. The outbreak is a process that involves soaking the legumes for eight to 24 hours and then making them tense and leaving them to sprout; The outbreak not only helps reduce phytic acid, but can also increase the amount of other beneficial nutrients. A 2015 study showed that cowpea buds reduced phytic acid four to 16 times. It also increased the amount of protein between 9 and 12 percent, increased vitamin C from four to 38 times and improved protein digestibility between 8 and 20 percent. Fermentation is another process that can significantly improve the nutritional quality of legumes. This usually involves combining seeds with yeast and an acid to create healthy bacteria that can help break down difficult-to-digest foods in the gastrointestinal tract; Studies show that fermented legumes can make proteins easier to digest and can reduce the amount of phytic acid found in food. By soaking, germinating and fermenting your legumes, you can ensure that you are optimizing the nutritional content of your legumes, increasing absorption and preventing possible negative side effects.
What Should You Eat to Access the Benefits of Legumes?
Beans, lentils and peas are the main kinds of legumes and are relatively comparable when it comes to nutrition. Keep in mind, however, that some forms of these legumes may be healthier than others. When comparing dried versus canned beans, for example, canned beans tend to be loaded with excess sodium and are not exactly heart-healthy. While dried legumes are preferable, they may take longer to prepare and may not be as convenient or efficient. If you opt for canned varieties of legumes, make sure they are labeled “low sodium” and be sure to rinse any extra salt before serving. Most types of legumes are safe for consumption and generally do not pose a health risk. However, eating raw or raw beans can be very dangerous. Beans in particular contain phytohemagglutinin, a type of lectin that can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. In fact, there have been many reported cases of phytohemagglutinin poisoning as a result of eating raw or undercooked beans. Fortunately, cooking inactivates phytohemagglutinin and denies its toxic properties. For this reason, it is important to avoid raw beans and stick to beans that have been cooked and prepared properly.
How Much Should You Eat?
Although legumes are a staple food in many parts of the world, they are not as common in the United States. In fact, despite the many health benefits of legumes, only an estimated 8 percent of Americans eat legumes on a given day. While there are no clear recommendations on the amount of legumes you should eat, incorporating some portions into your diet each week may have favorable effects on your health. Vegetarians may consider increasing this amount and include sprouted or fermented legumes more regularly in their diets to help meet fiber and micronutrient needs. However, for most people, throwing a few cups of peas, beans or lentils can help fill in the gaps of a healthy diet. Here are some nutritious recipes that can help you increase your consumption of legumes:
- Sprouted Chickpea Burgers
- Crunchy Vegetable and Alfalfa Sprout Wraps
- Germinated lentil salad with Farro and raw vegetables
You can also try my Green Bean Recipes, Turkey Chili with Adzuki Bean Recipe and the Spicy Bean Salad Recipe.
Precautions on the Benefits of Legumes:
Legumes are a tasty and nutritious addition to the diet for most people. However, some people may want to limit their consumption. For those who follow a Paleo diet, legumes are on the list of foods that should be avoided due to their phytic acid content. Also, because legumes contain a good portion of carbohydrates, people with diabetes should consider what else is on the menu when legumes are included in their diets. Combine legumes with non-starchy vegetables, low glycemic fruits and lean protein sources for a balanced meal that stabilizes blood sugar. Some people may also be allergic to certain types of legumes. Peanuts, for example, are a common allergen and can cause symptoms such as hives, wheezing and even throat tightening, if you experience any negative symptoms after eating legumes, be sure to discontinue consumption and consult your doctor immediately. Finally, be sure to increase the intake of legumes slowly and drink plenty of water. Increasing fiber consumption too quickly can cause symptoms such as cramping, gas and bloating.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Legumes:
What are legumes? They are an incredibly diverse group of foods with different nutrient profiles, flavors and uses. In fact, this makes it difficult to define what they are leguminous because there are thousands of different species grown throughout the world. Although legumes have a wide range of health benefits, they also contain compounds such as phytic acid that can impair the absorption of certain minerals. However, by practicing the proper preparation, the negative effects of phytic acid can be easily minimized. While increasing legume consumption may not be for everyone, including legumes as part of a nutritious diet can provide many essential nutrients and may be beneficial to your health. What are they for and what are the benefits of legumes? The six main benefits of legumes are:
- Being high in protein
- Promote regularity
- Helping in weight loss
- Boosting heart health
- Providing important vitamins and minerals
- Stabilize blood sugar