Legumes: Plant-Based Protein Powerhouses

Legumes are a family of vegetables or plants that have a pod with seeds inside them. These vegetables are rich in numerous nutrients, most notably – protein. Protein can be found in every cell within the body; therefore it is needed by the body for various processes such as regulating metabolism and the creation of new cells. Our favorite legumes include:

  • chickpeas,
  • lentils,
  • peas,
  • Kidney beans,
  • black beans,
  • soybeans,
  • Pinto beans,
  • navy beans and
  • green beans.

For those that cannot afford meat, legumes have become an ideal meat substitute as they are the best sources of plant-based protein. They’ve even become a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets. Furthermore, for those looking to reduce their meat intake, these sprouts are a perfect substitute as they are free of saturated fats whilst being rich in other important nutrients that can provide plenty of benefits.

1. Digestive health

Apart from being rich in protein, legumes also contain a good amount of fibre. Fibre is important for digestive health as it helps to ease digestive disorders, such as constipation. One study, published in the journal World Journal of Gastroenterology, highlighted this fact, revealing how the consumption of more fibre helped to increase stool frequency. Nonetheless, it’s important that you take care when increasing your fibre intake, as rapid increases in consumption can lead to symptoms such as gas and cramps.

2. Weight management

These are the best vegetables to add to your plate when you’re looking to manage your weight.

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Due to their richness in both protein and fibre, legumes are able to help encourage satiety, which is important when it comes to weight management. Studies have also highlighted how high protein content can increase your metabolism, which helps to burn off calories. For a delicious vegetarian burger with lentil patties, click on the following link.

3. Heart health

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most common causes of death in the world, which is why it’s important to take care of your heart. High levels of bad cholesterol can harm the health of your heart and it’s also a precursor to obesity. That being said, it’s important to keep its levels down. According to one study, legumes can help to decrease the levels of bad cholesterol within the body. Other studies have highlighted how it can decrease your risk of heart disease by decreasing your blood pressure.

4. Regulates blood sugar

Regardless of whether you’re at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes or not, it’s important to keep your blood sugar low.
According to a study published in the cardiovascular journal ARYA Atherosclerosis, individuals who regularly consume these sprouts have lower blood sugar levels when compared to those who don’t eat legumes.

5. Helps to encourage a healthy pregnancy

If you’re an expectant mother, you may want to add more legumes to your plate.

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Legumes are extremely rich in nutrients and one of these nutrients is folate. This nutrient is essential for the healthy development of the fetus. Studies have shown how high levels of folate help to protect the fetus against neural tube defects that can provide a range of cognitive difficulties.

Precautions with legumes

As beneficial as legumes can be, there is a downside to their nutritional quality. Legumes contain anti-nutrients, which are compounds that can hinder the absorption of important nutrients such as iron and calcium. Phytic acid (phytates) is one such anti-nutrient. It prevents the absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. This is especially prevalent in individuals whose diets are low in meat and high in grains and legumes. Lectins are another form of anti-nutrients. This family of proteins resists digestion and can potentially affect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Fortunately, the harmful effects of anti-nutrients can be reduced through proper preparation methods. These methods include:

  • soaking,
  • sprouting, and
  • fermentation.

While most anti-nutrients can be found in the skin of legumes, soaking legumes can have some anti-nutrients dissolving. Soaking is one of the easiest ways to kill off anti-nutrients, as all you do is allow the legumes to sit in warm water for over 8 hours.

Some studies have stated that lengthened time in soaking kills off more phytic acid. Sprouting is one preparation method that is commonly used. During the process, legumes are soaked in water for over 8 hours (and possibly up to 20) before straining them and leaving them to sprout. According to one study, sprouting helps to reduce the levels of phytic acid whilst boosting its nutritional content. According to a study published in the German journal Nahrung, the fermentation of legumes not only reduces the amount of phytic acid but it also makes proteins easier to digest.

There is no right way to prepare your legumes, which is why you need not choose only one method. Although it will take more time, you could always combine all three methods to ensure that you gain all the benefits of eating legumes without the
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1 Comment

  1. 6 June 2018 at 4:47 am

    Hi Pierette! Really like your article on the power of legumes! Completely agree with the fact that legumes have so many underestimated health benefits! Didn’t know that it helps to encourage a healthy pregnancy though!
    As a vegan myself, I tend to eat a lot of legumes and really like this source of protein. However, it can be pretty tricky in a vegan diet. As plant proteins are incomplete, it’s really important to pair together complementary proteins in order not to have protein deficiency. I’ve written an article on how to avoid deficiency in a vegan diet: https://naturaldietetics.com/healthy-vegetarian-and-vegan-diet/
    Would love to hear your thoughts 🙂