Can you name a food source that is low in fat and calories, high in potential energy, loaded with beneficial dietary fibre, and an optimally healthy source of protein? Can you add to that list that it should be a tasty food that is also very filling and satisfying? You might jokingly answer that no food sources can meet that list of requirements but you would be incorrect. This is because the group of foods known as “legumes” does indeed meet every single property on that list.
What is a Legume?
“Great,” you might say, “How do I add these nutritious wonders to my diet?”
The answer is pretty lengthy because, according to author Meg Campbell, there are more than 13,000 types of them available. To ensure you are able to add them to your diet, however, let’s understand the most readily accessible types:
Mature – These are the dried legumes such as lentils, all of the dried beans and peas, and even “split peas” too; and
Immature – These are the dried types in their fresh state such as fresh peas, waxed beans, edamame (soy), etc.
All types of legumes, whether mature or immature, are going to give you the long list of benefits identified above, but let’s just take a closer look at those benefits to be sure you understand precisely how and why they should become a primary food source in your diet.
Examples of legumes include:
- Split peas
- Kidney beans
- Baked beans (navy beans)
- Four bean mix
- Red, green or brown lentils
The Many Benefits Provided
The human body requires “macronutrients” or nutrients that have to be consumed in substantial quantities every day. They differ from regular nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, because they must be eaten in such dramatically higher amounts. What are they? You know them as fat, carbohydrate, and protein.
Like most people today you may have heard all of the odd advice about eliminating certain macronutrients, such as the no-carb eating plans, or the low to no fat diets, but these are extreme. The body needs all three of these macronutrients each day, and so cutting them out is silly.
However, you can eat high quality versions of them or you can eat very poor quality versions. For instance, you could eat a deep fried food and get fat or you can eat an avocado and get some fantastic and nutrient dense fat into the diet.
Legumes are the same as that avocado example – an ideal form of two macronutrients – protein and carbohydrate. They are often referred to as the affordable meat substitute for this reason. Though plant protein they can stand on their own when compared to many meat or animal protein sources. They actually tend to rise quickly above and beyond meat sources because they don’t have the harmful substances such as cholesterol or saturated fat.
They are also fairly nutrient dense, which means that they deliver a lot more than good protein. Of course, their carbohydrate content is wonderful too. Though the no-carb proponents want you to keep your intake of this type of food to a minimal amount, you should know that all of the legumes are complex carbs, fibre dense, and very filling.
In other words, eat a serving of legumes and you will feel very satisfied (without any lingering fullness). As legumes are classified as low GI, you will also have your blood sugar regulated by the food. This eliminates the feeling of hunger for a long time afterward. The legumes are going to take longer to break down, and this means that they deliver energy to you for a much longer period as well. Not only that, but their fibre count keeps your intestinal tract operating at peak performance and healthier than ever.
As a cheap, optimally healthy, and delicious food source, you cannot go wrong with legumes.
If you have questions about the benefits of legumes, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a dietitian.
Campbell, Meg. The Health Benefits of Legumes. 2013.