Considering the health benefits of legumes, they ought to be known as “healthy people’s meat” instead of “poor people’s meat”, as they’re often called.
Also known as beans or pulses, they belong to an extremely large category of vegetables, containing more than 13,000 species and are second only to grains in supplying calories and protein to the world’s population.
Compared to grains, though, legumes supply about the same number of calories but usually two to four times as much proteins.
Despite their small size, beans pack a surprisingly rich and varied array of substances that are vital for good health.
Although it’s important to get all the amino acids, both essential and non-essential, it’s not necessary to get them from meat. In fact, because of its high unhealthy fat and cholesterol content – as well as the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in the raising of poultry and cattle etc, it is best to avoid animal derived food sources completely.
Beans, peas and lentils all belong to the legume family. You may also hear them called pulses, which is just another word for edible seeds. While their nutrient profiles vary a little from one legume to the next, most of them provide minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc. They all share two common characteristics: they’re excellent sources of protein and fiber.
Rich Source of Protein
Legumes provide more healthy protein per serving than other types of food. Beans, peas and lentils have about 15 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving. Women should get 46 grams of protein daily, while men need 56 grams every day, according to recommendations established by the Institute of Medicine. Based on these guidelines, a 1-cup serving of legumes supplies 33 percent of women’s and 27 percent of men’s daily protein.
Fiber for Heart and Digestive Health
Legumes are at the top of the list for sources of fiber. The insoluble fiber they contain prevents constipation. They also have soluble fiber, which helps keep blood sugar balanced and lowers the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Fiber’s ability to prevent cardiovascular disease is so important that the Institute of Medicine determined the recommended intake – 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams daily for men – based on the amount needed to protect against coronary heart disease. The fiber in legumes varies slightly, but most varieties provide about 16 grams in a 1-cup serving.
There are several different health benefits associated with the regular consumption of legumes. Some of them:
- Reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood
- Regulating the levels of blood glucose for diabetics
- Preventing cancer and reducing its risks
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving the function of the colon
- Curing constipation, piles and other digestive related problems
The benefits of eating sprouted legumes apply not just to adults, but also children. Many people avoid eating this food type, mainly because they are not aware of the various legumes health benefits. Moreover, if cooked incorrectly, some legumes can be quite bland and tasteless. Fortunately most legumes are quite versatile, which is why they can be added to any dish, ranging from salads to soups. Many innovative parents also increase the nutritional value of dishes such as pizzas and pastas, by adding legumes to them.
Benefits of Legumes For Women
Studies show that women who eat legumes, like soy bean, regularly, are less likely to develop breast cancer in comparison to others. Moreover, most legume varieties are high in iron. They boost the iron stores in women who are menstruating & may be at a risk for iron deficiency.
There are several health benefits that have been associated with legume.
Legumes Nutrition Facts
Most health experts advise people to include a fair amount of legumes in their diet, mainly because this food type is high in several important nutrients.
- Most legumes, like lentils and beans are high in selenium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, potassium and folate.
- Certain varieties of beans, like soy bean, are packed with an anti-inflammatory compound known as saponins. This compound lowers the cholesterol levels, boosts the immune system and protects the body against cancer. However, cooking beans excessively destroys the saponins present in them.
- For those who are vegan, legumes are one of the best forms of protein (not the only though, protein comes in many plant forms! ). Unlike meat, most legumes are low in cholesterol and fat, which is why they are much healthier in comparison.
- The flavonoid content in some beans like garbanzo, work as healthy oestrogen and help relieve the symptoms of menopause in women
- There is a significant amount of fiber present in legumes, because of which they improve digestion. Other nutrients that are found in legumes include vitamins, iron, starch and lime.
The number of calories may vary from one type of legume to the other. Given below is the caloric count for some of the common types of legumes:
- Garbanzo beans (4 ounces) – 75 ounces
- Kidney beans (4 ounces) – 94 calories
- Boiled black eyed peas (4 ounces) – 120 calories
- Baked beans, sugar-free (4 ounces) – 125 calories
- Cranberry beans (4 ounces) 170 calories
- Adzuki beans, sweetened (4 ounces) – 270
There is a lot of additional legumes nutritional information easily available through various resources, like online websites. Please do search further!
Though most of us are aware of the fact that legumes are good for health, many of us do not know the exact nutritional value of this food type. Most types of legumes contain 20% to 25% protein. The protein content in legume is therefore, almost twice as much as what is found in rice and wheat. Another advantage of consuming legumes on a regular basis is that the digestibility of the protein is also quite high.
Carbohydrates can be divided into two types, depending upon their chemical structure. Simple carbs, usually present in sugar, enter the bloodstream at a very fast pace and provide your body with instant energy. However, the energy boost provided by simple carbs is usually followed by a crash. Complex carbs take longer to enter the bloodstream, but they provide the body with a steady source of energy. Therefore, complex carbs are much better for your health, as they prevent weight gain or cardiovascular problems. Legumes are an excellent source of complex carbs, which is why they should be consumed on a daily basis.
Beans are usually rich in water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Some of the vitamins that can be found in various legumes include Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6 and & K. Beans like pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans and lima beans can provide your body with more than 20% of the daily vitamin value per serving.
Legumes are high in dietary fiber, which cleanses the colon, as it passes through your digestive system. The regular intake of fiber can reduce any blockage in the digestive tract, thereby decreasing problems like bloating, constipation and nausea. The fiber content in legumes also lowers risks of colon cancer and unhealthy cholesterol levels in the body.
People who are diabetic are advised to reduce their intake of sugar and other foods that contain simple carbs. However, even if you are diabetic, your body requires some amount of carbs, preferably complex carbs, in order to get energy. Therefore, doctors usually recommend an increase in the consumption of legumes for diabetics. This is because the fat content in legumes is relatively low, as compared to many other foods. Moreover, though legumes are quite high in carbs, they contain complex carbs.
Recent studies show that a higher legume intake leads to around 40% reduction in the risks of developing type-2 diabetes. However, patients who are at a risk, or are suffering from diabetes, should consult a vegan nutritionist for daily recommended portions, before adding carbs to their diet. Consuming an excessive amount of any food, including legumes, could be quite harmful.
In spite of the fact that most legumes are highly nutritious, many people avoid them, mainly because they are a bit difficult to digest and can lead to the formation of excess intestinal gas. Fortunately, there are ways in which legumes can be made more digestible. Before cooking raw beans, you need to soak them in water, preferably for a couple of hours. Some varieties of beans, like chickpeas and kidney beans, should be soaked overnight before they are cooked. This helps removing some of the gas-causing substances, after which they become easier to digest.
Several people regularly consume legumes for digestion, so that they build up their body’s ability to process them. In case you are planning to do so, make sure that you start off with small quantities.
A food allergy takes place when the immune system in your body mistakes a certain food as being harmful and tries to fight it off. Then begins a process in which antibodies are produced, along with certain chemicals. It is the chemicals in the body that usually trigger off the symptoms of allergy. Several people are allergic to different types of legumes like nuts and soybean. In such cases, most health experts advise people to strictly avoid legumes for allergy control purposes. However, there are several foods that contain peanuts, peanut oil and soy products. Therefore, those who suffer from allergic reactions towards legumes should read all labels carefully, before consuming any foods.
Several women check with doctors if they should consume legumes for breast cancer prevention. While legumes are highly healthy and nutritious, they do not specifically fight off breast cancer. However, they can improve a woman’s overall health and wellbeing, thereby reducing the risks of breast cancer.
For those women who are undergoing chemotherapy as a part of cancer treatment, constipation and other digestive problems are quite common. The fiber present in beans is also helpful in relieving some of the harmful side effects of chemotherapy. However, women are usually advised to avoid eating large quantities of legumes.
You can reduce the levels of cholesterol in your body, by consuming legumes on a regular basis. However, some varieties of legumes are better for cholesterol-reduction, as compared to the others. Given below are some of the most helpful legumes for cholesterol control:
- Black beans
- Black eyed peas
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Soy bean
- String bean
Legumes are a fantastic source of protein. Please do incorporate this wonderful healthy food source into your meal plan. Do have a variety in your vegan pantry, and always have some soaked, sprouted, ready, and prepared, on hand for your recipes!
~ Active Vegan ~