Legumes are a nutritious source of protein, fiber, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, and folate. When eaten as part of a balanced, plan-rich diet, legumes can help in preventing chronic diseases.
Common examples of legumes include:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
- Fava beans
- Cannellini beans
- Black-eyed peas
6 health benefits of legumes
1. Source of plant-based protein
Legumes are a great meat-free protein source and can serve as a meat substitute in many recipes.
Eating a predominantly plant-based diet may help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and some cancers. Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
2. Improve digestive health
Legumes are high in fiber content and contain slow digesting resistant starch.
Resistant starches are not digested but instead move the colon and add bulk to stools. They also act as a prebiotic food for beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium. These beneficial bacteria support gut health and help reduce levels of cancer-causing compounds. During fermentation, these bacteria create a short chain of fatty acids called butyrate that may be associated with the prevention of colorectal cancer.
3. Manage type II diabetes
Legumes have a low glycemic index, which may help prevent and manage diabetes and its associated conditions, such as high cholesterol and hypertension.
Substituting legumes for half a serving of eggs, bread, rice and baked potato a day has shown to help in the management of type II diabetes.
4. Aid weight loss
Legumes are rich in dietary components that are proven to promote weight loss.
Their protein and insoluble fiber content may increase the feeling of fullness and calorie expenditure through thermogenesis. About 40% of dietary fiber gets broken down during digestion, helping reduce total calorie intake. Fiber also takes longer to digest, which can help you feel satiated for longer and thus eat less.
5. Have antioxidant properties
Legumes such as beans contain antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and lowers the risk of premature cell aging. Most people with diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, dementia, and metabolic disorders benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet.
6. May help reduce the risk of cancer
The fiber, phytochemical, and mineral content of legumes may have anticancer effects. Nutrients in legumes have been associated with improved immune function and decreased oxidative stress to cells. Selenium and phytic acid have also been found to inhibit the growth of tumors.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clin Diabetes. 2015;33(4):198-205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4608274/
Medline Plus. Healthy Food Trends - Beans and Legumes. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000726.htm
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