Healthy foods can sometimes be costly. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. One such affordable and powerhouse of nutrition are legumes that add plant-based protein to your diet.
Legumes are a class of foods that includes peas, beans, and a wide range of lentils. They are nutritious, cost-effective, easy to source, and versatile enough to be cooked in many dishes. They can also be stored easily and an affordable way of stretching a meal while at the same time contributing to nutrition at a meager cost.
Why Legumes Matter
In their many forms, legumes must definitely be on your pantry shelf, especially if you’re looking to cut down on meats. Lentils and beans as part of legumes are a must in a plant-based diet, thanks to the nutritional profile it offers. They also make as excellent high-protein substitutes for meat, and their cooked texture indicates that they can fit ideally into all kinds of savory items such as patties, nuggets, and much more. Besides, there can also be used in soups, burgers, casseroles, chili, and more.
The terms pulses, beans, and legumes are sometimes interchangeably used. However, legumes refer to the complete plant, including the stem, leaves, and boards. On the other hand, pulses are only the edible seeds of the plant, such as lentils, beans, and peas. Some popular examples of legumes include:
- Black-eyed peas
- Soy nuts
- Fava beans
- Red beans
- Chickpeas or garbanzo beans, among several others.
Mediterranean and Indian diets have legumes as a staple food. They offer a wide range of health advantages. These are:
- Supply important nutrients. Legumes have a high nutrition count as they provide folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and iron. More importantly, there are also low in calories and fat. An approximate half-cup serving of legumes can provide 115 calories, 8 g of protein, 7 to 9 g of fiber, 1 g fat, and 20 g of carbohydrates. Regarded as one of the highest-fiber sources of carbohydrates, legumes have a low glycaemic index than other carbohydrate sources and are instrumental in controlling blood sugar.
- Provide antioxidants. Legumes and beans contain antioxidants that can avoid cell damage. According to medical and scientific health experts, antioxidants are crucial in preventing and delaying cellular damage. Those who consume a diet rich in antioxidants have a lower risk of chronic diseases and grave illnesses such as cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disorders.
- Boost a healthy heart. It is an excellent idea to cut down the intake of red meat due to the saturated fat content. To make up for their loss, lentils and beans act as great substitutes. They help reduce your meat intake and allow you to take advantage of some of their heart-healthy benefits. Research indicates that eating legumes can lower blood pressure, inflammation and cut down risks for cardiovascular disease.
- May lower type II diabetes. Some studies show that legumes may also help avoid and control severe health conditions such as type II diabetes. They can also aid in decreasing the risk of hypertension and high cholesterol. Consuming legumes regularly, particularly lentils, as part of a whole diet can lead to a lower risk of diabetes among elderly adults who have a high risk for cardiovascular disorders.
- Provide a wholesome plant-based protein meal. Legumes make excellent meat substitutes. As a powerhouse of a meat-free protein resource, legumes can take the place of meat in almost every recipe. If you’re looking to follow a plant-based diet, adding legumes to your meals can cut down the risks of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and many cancers. Plant-based diets are also associated with lower mortality, according to several studies.
Legumes And Weight Loss
Research also shows that legumes may benefit from weight loss as they are high in fiber, offer satiating protein, and are low in calories. Consuming legumes can help you feel fuller for a long time and prevent snacking between meals. One remarkable study published in the American Journal of Clinical Research revealed that participants who followed a diet containing one serving of pulses every day lost more weight than those participants who did not consume legumes at all.
Whether you are supporting a plant-based diet or not, it can be worth your while to add legumes to your meals. They are nutritious, make excellent substitutes for meat, are incredibly versatile and economical. Besides, there is a wide range of legumes to choose from, including various lentils, many types of peas, and beans, and you’re sure to find a whole list of legumes that you will love.
However, if you’re new to legumes, look for lentils that are easier to digest rather than starchy legumes. Because legumes are high in fiber, you may experience stomach troubles such as bloating, gas, or indigestion. Let your body get used to the raised fiber provided by the legumes by drinking plenty of water as you slowly incorporate them into your diet.