Legumes: Beans, Peas and Lentils

Green beans harvested

Legumes are defined as plants from the botanical family Fabaceae, whose fruit grows in pods. While often categorized separately culinarily, beans are in fact a type of legume, as are peas and lentils, and they all are defined as the seeds within the pods of legume plants. Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, soybeans, black beans, pinto beans and peanuts are some common examples of legumes found around the world.

Staples of Traditional Diets

tradtional bean soup from Colombia

Legumes are important staples in many traditional diets. The lauded Mediterranean diet utilizes several different kinds of beans and peas, while South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepali) cuisines rely heavily on lentils (take a trip to South Asia and remember to order “Dal Bhat!”), and many cultures from modern-day Latin America still have diets that revolve around the same core crops as their native ancestors, namely beans and maize(corn). Middle Eastern cuisine is famed for its use of chickpeas, a particularly healthy legume.

Legumes: A Nutritionally Complete Food

Sorting beans in Colombia

Legumes are one of the most nutritionally complete foods in existence. They provide the body with substantial amounts of healthful macronutrients, such as vegetable protein, carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and dietary fiber, as well a micronutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, iron and a whole range of other valuable minerals. Being a rich plant-food, legumes are also packed full of phytonutrients, many of which exhibit antioxidant properties. All legumes are also low in glycemic index, ranging from around 10-40 depending on the variety.

Legumes: Healthful Foods for Preventing and Managing Diabetes

Health benefits associated with legume consumption are numerous. They help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, control, reverse or prevent hypertension, improve gut balance by creating an environment for healthy bacteria to thrive, aid in weight loss and obesity prevention, and both prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. According to a recent study in “Clinical Diabetes,” eating “a diet rich in plant-based foods, including legumes, and lower in refined grains, sugar-sweetened beverages, and processed meats has been shown to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, for those who have diabetes, to improve both glycemic and lipid control.”

Discover More Legumes: Beans, Peas and Lentils that are Beneficial to Diabetes Prevention, Management and Overall Health

 

Resources and Further Reading

A study showing how diets based around plant-foods help to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039

Recent research showing the numerous health benefits of legumes: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/plant-based-diet-reduced-diabetes-risk-hu-satija/

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