The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council recently released a guide called "Lifting the lid on legumes". The full pdf is available from the link at the end of this post.
What are legumes?
Legumes (also known as pulses) include all forms of beans and peas, such as cannellini beans, kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, split peas, butter beans and chickpeas.
The latest draft review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends Australians increase their intake of alternatives to meat, such as legumes.
What's to gain from grains?
- Improved heart health
- Studies show people who eat legumes are less likely to develop heart disease
- Legumes have been shown to manage cholesterol
- Their protective effects are likely from the soluble and insoluble fibre and phytosterols which block cholesterol absorpotion in the gut
- They are low in sodium (salt)
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Legumes have been shown to improve short term blood glucose control
- They improve HbA1c (3 month reading of blood glucose levels) in diabetics
- They are low glycaemic index (GI)
Ways to beat the bloat
Legumes contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), unabsorbed carbohydrates that move through to the large intestine where they are food for gut bacteria. The old schoolyard saying "beans beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot" is actually true. Studies have shown people generally manage 1/2 a cup everyday, and gradually introducing them into the diet helps avoid bloating.
You can also remove alot of the 'wind-producing' components by rinsing them well before using them (if canned), and soaking them in a few different batches of fresh water (if dried).
How much do I need?
Aim for at least 2 serves of legumes a week (1 serve = 75g/ 1/2 cup cooked legumes)
Think outside the square
The possibilities for using legumes are endless... add to soups, salads, casseroles, spaghetti, cous cous and rice dishes.
Breakfast: Baked beans
Lunch: Tuna and lentil salad
Dinner: Chilli con carne with kidney beans
Chickpea and pumpkin burger patties
Lentil spaghetti bolognaise
Snacks: Soy milk coffee
How do they measure up against meats?
A serve of legumes as a meat alternative = 170g/ 1 cup cooked legumes. A 170g serve of baked beans provides about 9g protein, 9g fibre and 1.7mg iron. A 170g serve of lentils provides about 12g protein, 6g fibre and 3.5mg iron.
A standard serve of chicken or meat is about 100g. This provides about 30g protein, no fibre and 0.5-3mg iron (higher in red meat).
The legumes also provide these nutrients for fewer calories, which is great if you're watching your waistline.
Although the protein intake is lower per serve, you can still easily meet your protein requirements of 0.75 - 1g protein per kg, whilst incorporating legumes into your diet.
Lifting the Lid on Legumes
*Image from Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council website