Legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and soy foods are an important part of a healthy diet for all Australians. Legumes have been shown to help manage both cholesterol and blood glucose. Increased intakes are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. In addition, emerging evidence indicates legumes may help in weight management.
Legumes, which include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas, are highly nutritious foods that offer a wide range of health benefits. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of eating legumes:
There are a range of nutritional characteristics associated with legumes that are considered to be protective against chronic diseases. These include:
- Protein: Legumes are an excellent source of plant-based protein, which is important for building and repairing tissues in the body. One cup of cooked lentils, for example, contains about 18 grams of protein.
- Fiber: Legumes are high in dietary fiber, which helps to promote regular bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, and regulate blood sugar levels. One cup of cooked black beans, for example, contains about 15 grams of fiber.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Legumes are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide energy to the body and help to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
- Vitamins: Legumes are rich in a variety of vitamins, including folate, thiamin, and vitamin B6, which are important for energy production, brain function, and overall health.
- Minerals: Legumes are also a good source of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, which are important for building strong bones and teeth, regulating blood pressure, and supporting immune function.
- Low in Fat: Legumes are generally low in fat, with some exceptions such as peanuts and soybeans. This makes them a great option for those looking to reduce their overall fat intake.
- Low glycemic index: contributes to the satiating effect of a meal and may reduce insulin responses.
- High resistant starch content: this starch is fermented by colonic bacteria to short chain fatty acids, which in turn imparts colonic health benefits.
- Phytochemical content: non-nutritive bioactive compounds including antioxidants may play a role in the disease protection benefits of legumes. Legumes are also sources of phytosterols, isoflavones, saponins, and alkaloids, as well as some bioactive sugars, oligosaccharides and phytates.
Overall, legumes are a highly nutritious food that can provide a range of health benefits when incorporated into a balanced diet.
GLNC recommends Australian’s enjoy legumes at least 2 – 3 times each week.