What are legumes | Are legumes healthy
Legumes are edible seeds or pods from the legume family. A few well-known examples are: brown and white beans, capuchins, lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and soybeans. Some legumes such as peanuts are more like nuts in terms of nutrients and are therefore often classified as such. Green beans are then counted as vegetables by the Nutrition Center.
Legumes have long been on the rise. You see more and more tofu and bean burgers on the store shelves. Vegetarians swear by it as the ideal meat substitute, but ordinary citizens also opt more often for chickpeas and lentils. But are legumes healthy? What is the nutritional value of legumes? And how do you incorporate them into a healthy meal?
What is the nutritional value of legumes?
Legumes are low in fat and high in carbohydrates, protein and fiber. The protein content of legumes is about 20% and therefore they can be used as a complete meat substitute. There are even protein powders that come entirely from soybeans or peas.
The high carbohydrate content mainly consists of slowly absorbing sugars. These do not cause a sugar peak, but rather a slow and stable release of energy. In addition, they also contain a lot of fiber. This is ideal if you often suffer from energy dips and the accompanying hunger attacks.
Legumes are also rich in many micronutrients. Think of B vitamins including B1 and B6, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. But also anti-oxidants that have a protective effect within your body.
What are the health benefits of legumes?
- Thanks to their high nutritional value, legumes have a positive effect on blood sugar levels and can lower “bad” cholesterol.
- Eating legumes regularly to replace red meat can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating legumes with every meal to help prevent cancer.
Are there any drawbacks to legumes?
- The most well-known drawback is that legumes, especially beans, often promote flatulence. This is because they contain a lot of indigestible fiber. Indigestible fiber is processed into yeast in the colon and this causes flatulence. A variety of fiber, both digestible and indigestible, is essential for good gut health. But if you are very bothered by it, it is more pleasant to spread your intake over smaller portions or moderate it entirely.
- Legumes contain relatively many saponins. These are soapy substances that can attach to cholesterol in the intestinal wall and therefore increase the risk of a leaky gut. In addition, they can also damage red blood cells and inhibit digestive enzymes so that less nutrients are absorbed.
- Legumes, like many other plants, contain phytic acid. Too high an intake of phytic acid can inhibit the activity of digestive enzymes and reduce the absorption of zinc, magnesium and iron. Fortunately, you can reduce the phytic acid content of legumes, but also nuts and seeds, by soaking or heating them.
Are legumes healthy?
If you want to avoid legumes because of these disadvantages, be aware that almost all foods contain substances that can be harmful at a high intake. Our body is adapted to this and a limited intake of these substances often contributes to a strong immune system. Regularly adding beans and peas to your eating schedule therefore certainly contributes to a healthy diet. And if you don’t overdo it, you won’t be bothered by the possible downsides.
How do you incorporate legumes into your eating schedule?
Legumes are very versatile and can be used as a topping in salads, as a base for burgers or hummus, or in an Asian lentil curry. They can serve as a protein source to replace fish or meat or simply as a nice extra. The proteins are ideal for muscle building, and the fibers ensure good satiety if you want to lose weight.