Legumes; can they play a role as part of a healthy diet?
Absolutely! Firstly, to clarify, the family of Legumes is made up of plants that produce a pod with a seeds inside and common edible examples include lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas and peanuts.
They are incredibly nutritious, providing good levels of iron, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B1, B3, B5 & B6. a rich source of soluble fibre and vegetable protein as well as being high in fibre and one of the best sources of plant-based protein.
They are also very convenient, inexpensive and very easy to incorporate into your daily choices:
- Use to thicken a soup instead of flour or potato
- Add to a casserole to boost your fibre intake
- Add to a soup to provide protein as part of your meal
- Sprinkle on a salad to boost protein and keep you fuller for longer
- Use as a protein and fibre rich base for a dip
There is however, one drawback; they do contain a substance called Phytic Acid, an “anti-nutrient” that can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients as part of the digestive process.
Phytic acids or phytates can impair the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium from a meal which over time and if eaten in large quantities, can increase the risk of a deficiency. Vegetarians should be aware and ensure that the diet contains a variety of proteins.
If you’re using dried beans, be sure to soak them for at least 12 hours and change the water several times during soaking to remove the Phytic acid that may have leached into this water, before using. Do not use the soaking water. Using canned beans is easy and convenient and as they are already soaked, will not contain as much Phytic acid. However, rinsing well before use will remove any traces that may have leached into the soaked water.
The bottom line is that legumes are an excellent source of plant based protein and soluble fibre and highly nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals. When prepared carefully to ensure minimal risk of phytic acid consumption, they are ideal as part of a healthy, balanced diet of whole unprocessed foods.
So, if you’re looking for a easy recipe to incorporate these fabulous foods, try this easy Spiced Cumin and Garlic Hummus