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Dietary Benefits of Legumes

blog post

Legumes include soy, peanuts, beans, lentils, peas etc. and are mostly a hot topic for debates about foods on our plate, no matter where we fall on the dietary spectrum. All of us are familiar with that swear by legumes as a superior substitute for animal protein. Also, it is important to note that legumes are eliminated in a few dies. There are some more common myths associated with legumes that I am going to bust in this post using scientific facts! What I am going to discuss here is what research shows about legumes. We will also discuss why most of the foods from a nutrient-dense diet exclude legumes. I am not going to deny the fact that beans have a high concentration of slow-burning carbohydrates, because it is true. The same compounds that ensure the carbohydrates in legumes, directly hit our bloodstreams and may contribute to increased intestinal permeability.

Are All Legumes Bad?

The amounts and types of fat found in modern grain feed animals vs. the amounts and types of fats found in grass fed or wild meat, fowl and fish, is one of the greatest deviations from our ancestral diet. An analysis of the complete fatty acid profile from several species of wild deer and elk suggests that wild meat has relatively low amounts of saturated fats and is remarkably lean. It also supplies us with significant amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats.

Unlike most beans, legumes with edible pods tend to contain agglutinins that are more completely and easily deactivated by heat. These are also relatively low in agglutinin (which is bad for intestinal health) content. So, simply steaming these types of legumes should be enough to render them nearly harmless. They also have low concentrations of phytates compared to other legumes, another potentially gut-irritating compound.

Are Legumes a Great Source of Protein?

The proteins found in legumes are incomplete proteins, did you know that? They do not contain all of the essential amino acids that humans need to function optimally.  Plant proteins have lower Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Scores than animal proteins and are also harder for our bodies to digest. When this characteristic combines with the low protein density of legumes, it makes them an inferior source of protein. Hence, it is highly recommended for those who prefer to follow a vegetarian version of the Paleo diet, to add eggs, high-quality grass-fed dairy and fish in their diet. Yes, I understand that ‘fish in a vegetarian diet’ sounds strange, but is it true. Your body requires it.

When people following vegan and vegetarian diets eliminate meat, they are suddenly faced with the challenge of replacing the protein that they would have gotten from animal products. In that sense, it’s easy to understand how legumes became such a staple in the diets of such people. Thanks to decades of misinformation, legumes, especially the soaked and sprouted variety, are frequently recommended not only as a as a quality protein for everyone, but also as a solution to an otherwise protein-deficient diet!  The truth is, even though soaking and sprouting legumes does make the protein in them more bioavailable and easier to digest, that doesn’t mean they actually contain the right types of protein.

It is certainly true that some legumes are more harmful than others, depending upon different amounts and types of agglutinins, saponins and other antinutrients that each type of legume contains. As I have discussed before, the traditional method of cooking that includes soaking, heating and boiling, can greatly reduce the activity of these compounds.

The take-home message is that there aren’t any nutrients in legumes that we can’t get more and better from quality meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, eggs nuts and seeds.

Disclaimer: The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website.