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The Benefits Of Legumes

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Legume is basically a family of vegetables or plants that feature a pod with seeds inside it.

There are many types: adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, broad beans (fava beans), calico beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, peanuts, peas, pinto beans, soybeans (also called edamame), and others.

Legumes are a terrific food!

They are nutritional powerhouses packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, selenium and are low in fat.

The latest research showed that frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may prevent Type 2 diabetes in older adults with high cardiovascular risk. [1]

They also lower levels of harmful LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides, the most abundant fat-carrying particle in the bloodstream. [2]

Pea protein, when hydrolysed, may yield bioactive peptides, including angiotensin I – converting enzyme inhibitor activity, which helps to lower blood pressure and treat patients with heart failure.

Colored seed legumes also contain a variety of phytochemicals like polyphenols and saponins, which may have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic activity, as well as galactose oligosaccharides, which may exert beneficial prebiotic effects in the large intestine. [3]

And of course the fiber rich legumes help to regulate our bowels, helping both with diarrhea and constipation. One serving of legumes daily provides a one-third of the daily fiber requirement.

Fiber also boost satiety. It curbs our appetite, helps to prevent overeating, and promotes weight loss.

Legumes, especially soybeans, chickpeas and lentils are rich in phytoestrogens, and can help with menopausal symptoms.

Many people shun beans, because of their gaseous aftereffects. Human digestive enzymes can’t break down the fiber and short chains of sugar molecules known as oligosaccharides in beans.

But the billions of bacteria living in the gut can digest them, often creating gas in the process.

Here are some tips to help you turn off the gas:

  • Soak the beans: soaking beans can get rid of a good portion of the indigestible oligosaccharides. Soak beans for 12 to 24 hours in a few quarts of water, pour off the soaking water, rinse, add clean water, and cook.

  • Choose wisely: some beans seem to create less gas than others. These include adzuki and mung beans, lentils, black-eyed, pigeon, and split peas. Heavy gas formers include lima, pinto, navy, and whole soy beans.

  • Start slow: let your body get used to fiber and oligosaccharides by having a small serving once or twice a week. Then gradually increase your intake, either by taking larger servings or eating beans more frequently.

  • Put your teeth to work: the more thoroughly you chew beans, the more you expose them to natural oligosaccharide-digesting enzymes in your saliva.

  • Gas-busters to the rescue: an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase breaks down some gas-producing oligosaccharides. The original product, Beano, has since been joined by others with names like Bean Relief, Bean-zyme, and plain old alpha-galactosidase. Taking a tablet before eating beans can reduce gas production.

For more information on how a healthy lifestyle can improve your health, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000 or www.newtowninternalmedicine.com


[1] Nerea Becerra-Tomás, et al. Legume consumption is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes incidence in adults: a prospective assessment from the PREDIMED study. Clinical Nutrition. 03/28/17.

[2] David J A Jenkins, et al. Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(21):1653-1660.

[3] W J Dahl, et al. Review of the health benefits of peas (Pisum sativum L.). BMJ. August 2012, pp. S3-S10.



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