It is likely that on many occasions you have eaten legumes and is one of your favourite foods. There are those who often confuse them, but the truth is that they are full of a large amount of vitamins and minerals, so they are very nutritious. Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are just some of themost popular legumes. Do you want to know what legumes are exactly and what their benefits are? Take a look! We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this rich source of fiber and protein. Read to the end!

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What are legumes?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “legumes are a kind of leguminous plants that is harvested only to obtain the dry seed. Dried beans, lentils and peas are the most commonly known and consumed kinds of legumes”.

It also points out that legumes do not include crops that are harvested green (for example, green peas, green beans) as these are classified as vegetables. Crops used mainly for the extraction of oils (such as soybeans and peanuts) and legumes that are used exclusively for sowing purposes (clover seeds and alfalfa) are also excluded”.

Legumes have long been basic food in many cultures, with some evidence showing that they began to diversify rapidly to form different species between 2 and 4 million years ago in the Andes Mountains.

What are some examples of legumes?

Although there are thousands of different kinds, some of the most common varieties that you can find are: all varieties of dry beans, such as beans (kidney bean, green bean, black bean), Lima beans, small kidney beans and broad beans. Chickpeas, cowpeas (black-billed beans, wild peas), mask beans and pigeon peas (quinchoncho, stick beans) are also legumes, as well as all the variety of lentils.

Legumes benefits

Besides being rich in protein and fiber, legumes are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Most varieties of legumes are high in micronutrients such as folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium.

For this reason, legumes are a great way to complete a diet that may lack certain nutrients. Let’s see some of their benefits:

High in protein

Legumes contain a decent amount of amino acids and are considered some of the best plant-based protein sources.

Protein is considered a fundamental part of the diet and essential for cell function and muscle growth. For this reason, legumes become especially important in vegan and vegetarian diets and are often used as basic sources of protein.

When it comes to losing weight, eating enough protein can also stimulate satiety and keep you full while supporting a healthy metabolism and even increasing the number of calories you burn after a meal.

They stimulate intestinal function

In addition to their impressive protein content, legumes are high-fiber foods that can help promote healthy cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health.

When you eat fibre, it moves slowly through your digestive tract and adds bulk to your stool to aid its passage. This is especially beneficial when it comes to constipation.

It is important to note that you should increase your fiber intake slowly and make sure you drink plenty of water as well. Sudden increases in fiber intake can cause unpleasant symptoms like gas, cramps, or bloating.

They can help you lose weight

If you are trying to lose a few pounds, you may want to consider adding a few servings of legumes to your diet each week.

Not only are they high in fiber and protein, which can help promote satiety and prevent hunger, but the consumption of legumes has also been associated with better weight control and obesity prevention.

Legumes are also very nutrient-dense foods, which means they are low in calories but contain tons of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in every serving. This makes it easier to optimize the nutrients you are taking in even by reducing your calorie intake.

Help normalize cholesterol levels and support heart health

Along with a healthy diet and an active life, adding one or two servings of legumes to your daily meal can have a good effect on your heart health. For example, many studies have shown that a diet rich in beans and legumes can lower bad cholesterol.

Various popular diets, including  DASH plans and Mediterranean-style, promote a higher intake of plant-based foods such as beans and lentils due to their ability to improve glycaemic control, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index.

They help stabilize blood sugar

Legumes are great for regulating blood sugar. It has been found in studies to significantly reduce the risks of heart disease, as well as high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The large amount of fibre found in legumes reduces the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. In addition, it maintains normal blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Risks of eating legumes

Although legumes are loaded with health benefits, there are also some drawbacks when including them in your diet that need to be considered.

Legumes contain “antinutrients” or compounds that can interfere with the absorption of important micronutrients such as iron and calcium.

The most common antinutrient found in legumes is phytic acid, which is the main storage form of phosphorus, found in foods such as cereals, legumes, and nuts. The problem with this acid is that it can bind and prevent the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

Over time, this can cause nutrient deficiencies in people who eat legumes frequently; however, keep in mind that this is much more likely to affect vegetarians than meat eaters.

Lectins are another kind of antinutrient found in legumes. They resist digestion and can even damage the lining of the gastrointestinal tract when consumed in large quantities.

Fortunately, by practicing proper preparation techniques, the harmful effects of antinutrients found in legumes can be minimized.

Allergies and other concerns

Legumes contain a good amount of carbohydrates, therefore, people with diabetes should be careful to include legumes in their diets. Combine legumes with non-starchy legumes, low-glycaemic fruits, as well as lean sources of protein for a balanced meal that stabilizes blood sugar.

If you experience any negative symptoms after eating legumes, be sure to discontinue consumption and see your doctor immediately.

This article is informative and is not intended to serve as a diagnosis, prescription or treatment of any type of ailment. This information is not a substitute for consulting a doctor, specialist or health professional.

Explicit or implicit recommendations on drugs, techniques, products, among others, are cited for informational purposes only. The use of this information is carried out under the users’ sole responsibility.