24 Jul Full of Beans? 10 Great Reasons to Include Legumes in Your Diet
With all the banting carb-free craze that’s been going about it’s easy to see legumes as has beans in your daily diet. But did you know that 2016 has been declared the International Year of Pulses by the UN? There has been research done on the humble legume that indicates that people who eat them regularly actually reap substantial health benefits. If you know the secrets to unlocking their goodness, legumes can be a source of wholesome, affordable meals that have been feeding us with delicious dishes for centuries.
So what has prompted the UN to dedicate a whole year in honour of legumes?
Legumes are a source of protein that is affordable and don’t contain the saturated fats and cholesterol that meat does. They’re also filled with vitamins and minerals for your nutrition. Being a source of quality plan protein is one of the major factors that has earned them the UN’s attention. Which leads us to the next pro…
Earth & Animal Friendly
Legumes are one of the best option we have when it comes to food security and sustainability. World agriculture contributes a worrying amount of greenhouse gases to the environment and also is the culprit in much of the destruction of natural habitats, impacting not only biodiversity but endangering many of our fellow earth creature’s survival. There has been a major increase in meat consumption over the last 50 years or so and huge amounts of resources such as water and food for livestock feed are unsustainable. Emissions per gram of protein for beef and lamb are about 250 times those of legumes and twenty servings of vegetables have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than one serving of beef.
Add to that the often inhumane conditions that many animals are farmed under and legumes become an ever more logical solution to feeding us all, as well as being kinder to the environment and animals. Look out for ranges like Goodness Me (which also comes in eco-friendly packaging that’s totally biodegradable), Health Connection and Absolute Organix.
Legumes not only have a heart because they’re more eco and animal friendly, but they’re literally good for your heart too. It’s been found that eating legumes regularly instead of meat promotes healthy cholesterol levels and helps protect against heart disease. The soluble fibre in legumes actually binds unhealthy cholesterol on your digestive tract so you don’t absorb it into your bloodstream, protecting your artery walls from plaque build-up. They’re also a good source of magnesium which is very important for proper heart function. It’s been backed up by studies that eating legumes regularly can help reduce heart disease.
Because legumes are a combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber they are very filling. Your body doesn’t digest them as quickly, making for a slow burn that keeps you feeling fuller for longer. They have a low glycaemic index which means they won’t cause blood sugar crashes. Studies found that when people with type 2 diabetes ate one cup of beans daily for three weeks they had a marked improvement in blood sugar control.
Keeps You Regular
Legumes are packed with insoluble and soluble fiber, the perfect combo for promoting better digestion and bowel regularity and helping to prevent constipation. Despite all the jokes about a little shall we say, windiness, it was found in studies that after 3 weeks of eating beans flatulence reduced noticeably as bodies adjusted to digesting them.
Not only do legumes give you that fuller feeling that helps prevent cravings, they have a positive effect on your metabolism by helping to regulate your insulin production. Excessive insulin production can lead to type 2 diabetes, which comes with the unhealthy effect of weight gain.
Beans contain B vitamins that are important for helping your body convert food to energy, boost good cholesterol, and reduce inflammation. B vitamins are also very important for your nervous system and mood. Thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, and folate are among the B’s you’ll benefit from when eating a balanced diet that includes beans.
This is one that may not seem as obvious, but beans are actually full of antioxidants that protect against cancer-causing free radicals. It was found that women who ate beans regularly every week over the course of a few years were less likely to develop breast cancer than those who only ate them once a month or less. Beans also contain things called saponins which have been shown to block the reproduction of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumours.
So Fresh They’re Still Growing…
The amazing thing about legumes is that you can store them in your pantry and then magically transform them into living little plants with very little effort or need for a green thumb – and they’re grown without pesticides or additives! Perfect. Sprouting your legumes is one of the best secrets to unlocking their nourishing powers and making them more digestible and they are literally tender baby plants you can eat that are still growing. Sprouting legumes has been found to produce 100 times more enzymes than uncooked fruits and vegetables, increases their vitamin C content dramatically, and also ups their essential fatty acid profile. Great for your immune system. The protein quality in your legumes is also improved when you sprout them, making them an extremely nutritious fresh food.
Easier to Digest Than You Think
The enzymes that digest legumes are produced in your gut so if you don’t eat them regularly your gut gets a little lazy. So you need to give your body a few weeks to adapt to eating beans regularly. To make this nourishing family of seeds easier to digest, remember to soak them overnight then rinse them well before cooking very thoroughly. Adding a splash of apple cider vinegar as they are almost ready also can help, as well as cooking with spices such as ginger, turmeric, fennel and asafoetida. When cooking, don’t add salt until they are already soft, and as always, chew your food properly!