Last Updated June 13th, 2021
What are legumes?
The fruits and seeds of Fabaceae type of plants are called legumes. There are numerous types of legumes available. The most commonly used legumes are chickpeas, kidney beans, soybeans, peas, navy beans, alfalfa, lentils, peanuts, etc. They are one of the favorite foods among vegetarians and contain a high concentration of fiber, proteins, vitamins, as well as minerals. They contain very low calories. They have been in use since ancient times and date back to 4 million years ago.
Legumes provide various health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects and anti-carcinogenic effects. Legumes are known to contain bioactive peptides. Studies have also indicated that regular intake of legumes is beneficial in reducing the risk factor associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, as well as cancer. Legumes are used to prepare several culinary dishes and are used widely all over the world. People also use dried legumes that can be stored for many months. Due to this practice, legumes are available all over the year.
Legumes: What do they contain?
A cup of cooked lentils contains:
They are considered to be the rich source of proteins available from plants providing 18 grams.
- 16 grams of fiber.
- 40 grams carbohydrates.
- 37% of iron.
- 90% of folate.
- 18% of magnesium.
- 21% of potassium.
- 10% of vitamins such as vitamin B1, B3, B5, as well as B6.
Why your body needs legumes?
Best plant-based protein source
Generally, people consume proteins through meat such as chicken and fish that are known to contain high concentrations of proteins. People who follow a vegetarian diet have few options to obtain protein through diet. Legumes are the best source of proteins which is plant-based. A cup of cooked legumes provides sufficient amount of proteins required for a person in a day. They are known to promote regularity in metabolism and also help in burning calories and promote the feeling of fullness.
Rich source of fiber
Adding fiber to the diet is important since it helps in the process of digestion. Legumes are known to provide around 16 grams of fiber from just one full bowl of legumes. Fiber-rich food is helpful in relieving constipation and providing bulk to the stool. Studies have indicated that adequate fiber intake along with appropriate intake of water is helpful in managing different types of digestive problems including bloating and constipation. Fiber-rich foods are known to promote the feeling of fullness. They also help in reduced calorie intake as well, which also is effective in managing healthy dietary intake.
Add legumes to weight loss diet plan
Consuming legumes during weight loss program would be one of the best options. They contain high concentrations of nutrients with minimal calories. A bowl of cooked legumes may account to around 230 calories but provides an adequate amount of nutrition including proteins, vitamins, minerals, as well as high levels of fiber. Consuming legumes promotes satiety for a longer period of time which helps in limiting the food intake. When there is a reduced amount of food intake, it limits the calories and is able to promote the process of weight loss.
Protect your heart and reduce inflammation
Legumes are effective in lowering the LDL cholesterol levels from the body. They are rich in fiber and magnesium. Both these components are effective in reducing the inflammation. Due to the reduction in cholesterol, there is a lesser chance of plaque formation in the blood vessels. This process is helpful in maintaining a healthy heart.
An abundant source of vitamins and minerals
Different types of legumes contain a high concentration of essential vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, folate, potassium, manganese, as well as phosphorous. A bowl of legumes can provide up to 37% of iron as well as provide 90% of folate intake recommended for a person per day. This type of food is essential for vegetarians because of the limited options available in choosing the food with such high nutrition concentration.
Manage your sugar levels
Abnormal levels of blood sugar may be caused due to factors such as drug reaction, abnormal diet, as well as insulin resistance. Legumes are known to have a low glycemic index, which means the amount of sugar entering the bloodstream is less when we consume them. They have high concentrations of fiber, which is the important factor that reduces the sugar absorption into the bloodstream. This causes blood sugar levels to be better controlled and hence legumes help in regulating the blood sugar levels.
Are there any side-effects?
Generally, they are known to provide various health benefits. They also have few side effects associated with them such as:
Anti-nutrients: These are substances, which are known to reduce the absorption of certain nutrients namely iron, magnesium, etc. Legumes contain a substance called phytic acid, which is considered anti-nutrients. The phytic acid reduces the absorption of nutrients and hence is considered to be a side effect of legumes. Soaking and sprouting the legumes may reduce the level of phytic acid, but still remains in moderate levels.
Lectins: They are a collection of proteins which is not digested and can cause damage to the intestinal tract. Phytohemagglutinin is the lectin that is found in legumes and is considered toxic. The side effects of lectins are induced when legumes are consumed in the raw form. It is always advised to consume legumes only after cooking to reduce the levels of lectins.
Saponins: They are similar to lectins and are a collection of nutrients which are not digested. They also may damage the intestinal tract. Studies have indicated that saponins may also cause a medical condition called a leaky gut. Leaky gut is a medical condition when the walls of the intestine weaken and pathogens escape through the intestinal wall, which may cause a variety of health problems.
Common legumes and their nutritional makeup
- 168 grams of chickpeas contains around 269 calories.
- 14.5 grams of protein.
- 12.5 grams of fiber.
- 71% folate.
- 84% manganese.
- 29% copper.
- 26% iron.
- 198 grams of lentils contains around 230 calories.
- 17.9 grams of protein.
- 15.6 grams of fiber.
- 90% folate.
- 49% manganese.
- 29% copper.
- 22% thiamine.
- 160 grams of peas contains around 125 calories.
- 8.2 grams of protein.
- 8.8 grams of fiber.
- 24% folate.
- 22% manganese.
- 48% vitamin K.
- 30% thiamine.
- 256 grams of kidney beans contains around 215 calories.
- 13.4 grams of protein.
- 13.6 grams of fiber.
- 23% folate.
- 22% manganese.
- 20% thiamine.
- 17% copper.
- 17% iron.
- 172 grams of black beans contains around 227 calories.
- 15.2 grams of protein.
- 15 grams of fiber.
- 64% folate.
- 38% manganese.
- 30% magnesium.
- 28% thiamine.
- 20% iron.
- 172 grams of soybeans contains around 298 calories.
- 28.6 grams of protein.
- 10.3 grams of fiber.
- 71% manganese.
- 42% phosphorous.
- 41% vitamin K.
- 29% vitamin B2.
- 49% iron.
- 171 grams of pinto beans contains around 245 calories.
- 15.4 grams of protein.
- 15.4 grams of fiber.
- 74% folate.
- 39% manganese.
- 29% copper.
- 22% thiamine.
Legumes: A legacy of health
Legumes are considered to be an important component of a healthy diet. They are the best protein source available from plants. The biggest positive aspect of legumes is the rich nutrient content coupled with low calories. Adding legumes to the diet promotes several health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects and anti-carcinogenic effects. They are also known to contain bioactive peptides.
They are helpful to treat several chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. One of the biggest challenges to treat these chronic conditions includes lifestyle and dietary changes. It becomes very easy for a person affected by these chronic conditions to easily adapt to a healthy diet consisting of legumes.
There are several ways to include legumes in our daily diet such as adding them to homemade soups, using them to make vegetarian tacos, it can be used for hamburger mixtures when you make a puree with legumes, as well as can be used in curries as an alternative for meat and can be enjoyed with cooked rice.
Raw legumes contain a natural substance called phytic acid and are known to hinder the absorption of minerals and cause damage to the intestine. It is always advised to cook the legumes as well as soak them before cooking to reduce the harmful side effects associated with them. The bottom line is that legumes are highly nutritious food and needs to be added to the daily diet at the appropriate quantities.
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