Legumes are a versatile class of vegetables that consist of all types of beans and peas from the Fabaceae (or the Leguminosae) botanical family, including chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, edamame beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, soybeans, split green peas, black-eyed peas, white peas, yellow lentils, green lentils, red lentils, French/puy lentils, lupin seeds and lupin flowers…just to name a few.
Legumes are considered a good addition to a healthy diet as they’re almost all low in fat (with the exception to soybeans, which contain high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), contain almost 2x the protein content of other grains, are rich in energy-producing carbs, have a low glycemic index rating (which is good for control of blood glucose), reduced in sodium by as much as 41%, high in both insoluble and soluble fibre, high in phytoestrogens (which have been linked to having the ability to reduce the risk of certain cancers), a good source of B-group vitamins (including folate, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium), and gluten free (making them safe for those who are gluten-sensitive or those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease.)
To get a better idea of the amazing nutritional profile that comes along with legumes, just 1 cup of lentils can provide you with the following:
• 18 grams of protein
• 16 grams of fibre
• 40 grams of carbohydrates
• 37% of the daily value (DV) of iron
• 90% of the DV of folate
• 17% of the DV of magnesium
• 16% of the DV of potassium
• 230 calories
Along with all of these mentioned positives, legumes are also cheap to buy – meaning you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to be able to reap their benefits. That being said, it’s also important to know some of the downsides that can come along with legumes. For example, raw legumes contain antinutrients including phytic acid and lectins, both of which can interfere with the digestion and/or absorption of nutrients, as well as affect the cells that line your intestinal tract. You can reduce the effects of these antinutrients by soaking legumes overnight, or you can also boil them.
While legumes are also rich in healthy fibres, it’s possible that some individuals might experience unpleasant side effects as a result of consuming them – such as gas and/or bloating. However, they also contain SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) that can not only improve the health of your colon, but may even reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. If you happen to notice that you’re experiencing gas or bloating since implementing more legumes into your diet, then a visit to your family doctor might be beneficial as they may be able to offer you tips or prescribe a mild medication to help ease those symptoms.