The Diabetes Association has shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. In particular, legumes are recommended for their numerous nutritional properties. There are many legumes, and they can be found canned, frozen and dried. We indicate chickpeas, peas, broad beans, beans, lentils, edamame, soy, Ricerche, and lupins among the most common. What benefits do they have?
The Properties Of Legumes
Legumes are a fundamental part of the food pyramid of the Mediterranean diet. They are the best protein source of vegetable origin: their protein intake is almost double that of cereals (20-40%) and is very close to that of many foods of animal origin. Legumes provide a good amount of carbohydrates, mainly in the form of starch (50% of their weight) and a good amount of micronutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, copper and magnesium, B vitamins and if fresh, also vitamin C.
As for saturated fats, legumes are almost devoid, so much so that they are cholesterol-free. The insoluble fibers in the peel ensure regular intestinal functioning; soluble fibers, on the other hand, contribute to maintaining blood glucose and cholesterol levels. In addition to being good for health, legumes also play an essential role in preventing and managing more severe diseases.
Why Are Legumes Good For You?
The role of legumes in nutrition can be vital, but also in managing and preventing some diseases. A diet rich in plant-based foods, with legumes and low in refined grains, sugary drinks and processed meats have been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, for those with diabetes, to improve both glycemic and lipid control.
Regular consumption of legumes can also significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels. Being rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber, legumes positively impact the management of blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Finally, a diet that includes legumes can help with weight control. The fibers, proteins and slow-digesting carbohydrates within them promote a sense of satiety.
Can Legumes Replace Meat?
Proteins are necessary for our body, but they are not the same: we distinguish proteins of vegetable origin and animal origin. Regarding nutrients, legumes are similar to meat but have lower bioavailable iron levels and no saturated fat. Furthermore, the good protein content makes them an excellent alternative to meat, able to cover our daily needs. In terms of protein quality, however, the biological value of these proteins is lower than those of animal origin as they are deficient in methionine and cysteine, two essential amino acids.
However, these are present in cereals, lacking in lysine (of which legumes are rich), and in this case, the biological value will increase. However, it is necessary to pay attention to the quantities by associating legumes with cereals, as the fiber intake will also increase, provided that it is the primary protein source in a diet.
How Many Legumes To Eat And How To Consume Them?
Combining legumes with a cereal makes the meal balanced and complete. Legumes should be eaten at least three times a week, preferably dry, but also canned or frozen. To facilitate the absorption of the iron in them, combining a source of vitamin C such as lemon juice is good. It is always possible to season dishes with spices and herbs to flavor them. Some examples of complete meals:
- rice (or another whole grain such as buckwheat, quinoa, spelt) and lentils, in association with a source of fiber (such as zucchini and tomatoes) and raw extra virgin olive oil (Evo);
- pasta and peas, with the addition of a seasonal vegetable and extra virgin olive oil;
- potatoes and broad beans, perhaps creating a puree and adding extra virgin olive oil and a steamed vegetable such as chard or chicory;
- In the colder periods, you can prepare soups with legumes, tomatoes, carrots, fennel and celery. To accompany bread or croutons and a drizzle of raw Evo oil;
- If you don’t like legumes, they can be eaten by creating meatballs or burgers, combining the chosen legume with a steamed vegetable, extra virgin olive oil, and a little breadcrumbs, with bread for accompaniment.
Legumes: Are There Any Precautions?
Like any other food, the intake of legumes is also subjective, both in frequency and quantity. For each of us, then. The consumption of legumes can vary according to our pathophysiological history and habits. For this reason, the advice is to rely on a professional in the area who can better manage the needs of the individual patient.