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LEGUMES...the unsung HEROES of the plant world.

If you are one of my clients you have no doubt have been advised to add more legumes to your life....I absolutely adore legumes & recommend them as foods as medicine to nearly all my clients!

And as is the case with all plants, variety is key to ensure a diversity of gut microbiome & the health benefits that are linked.

What are legumes exactly - Legumes are from the plant family Favaceae & are either the fruit or seed. When used as a dry grain, the seed is also called a pulse. Here are some examples of legumes!

  • Adzuki beans

  • Black beans

  • Chickpeas

  • Green beans

  • Red kidney beans

  • Lentils

  • Lima beans

  • Navy beans

  • Peas

  • Pinto beans

  • Soy beans

WHY should we be adding these into our diets? Because they are a powerhouse of nutrients, literally loaded with phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins & antioxidants they are also an excellent protein source!

Here are some of the amazing health benefits of legumes -

  • Promotes heart health - reduced cholesterol levels

  • Reduce the risk of obesity & type 2 diabetes

  • Modulate insulin levels & reduce blood sugar levels

  • Limit tumour growth - anti-cancer benefits

  • Ultimate source of soluble fibre -to help the body clear bile & all the toxins attached

  • Feed microbiome in our gut by containing microbiota accessible carbohydrates

  • Vitamin content - iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium potassium, folate & B vitamins.

What about lectins & anti-nutrients? I will sometimes get questioned about the lectin content in legumes, as Dr Goggle has no doubt scared people away from legumes as if they are toxic to consume.

Lectins are carbohydrates binding proteins that resist digestion they are present in about 30% of all foods but most abundant in UNCOOKED legumes. Whilst the research does suggest that lectins & anti-nutrients can cause digestive complaints, it is also important to mention that foods containing lectins, seeds, root vegetables, grains, legumes have been a stable food for people of all cultures for centuries.

So the short answer to lectin issues in legumes, YES it can be toxic to people in large amounts, however with the proper preparation & cooking you can nullify the lectin affect in legumes significantly improving the nutrient profile & digestibility up to 100%.

I will mention, that it is a good idea to start slowly when adding legumes into the diet which can minimise any digestive upsets.

So how do you prepare & cook these powerhouses -

  • No heating processing - such as soaking, fermenting & sprouting - Soaking times are between 12 – 48 hours depending on the legume – lentils only need 12 hours other beans may need to be soaked for longer. Always soak with an acid base like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice & with some black pepper & I usually suggest changing the water on a regular basis.

  • Heat processing - cooking & boiling - you want to be able to cook the legumes to a point that they are squishy between the fork. Remember to use large amounts of water when boiling or cooking & always discard the water after!

  • Canning beans - destroy all the lectin aggulutin content - still very important to drain away, rinse & soak (5-10minutes) of canned legumes & always get organic canned legumes.

Now we've got the correct way of preparing & cooking the legumes what are some easy ways to incorporate them into the diet -

  • Breakfast ideas - baked beans with eggs, spinach & avocado, or add some into your smoothie every morning.

  • Lunch - add them to salads, frittata's & soups

  • Dinner - swap up the meat & add lentils instead of mince to spaghetti & pasta dishes, add them to curries & stews.

Start to add these life changing legumes into your diet & notice the amazing benefits of these powerhouses of nutrients! :)

In health & happiness

Sarah Emily Herbalist

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