As plant foods, they are also cholesterol free with the exception of soybeans and peanuts.
Due to their high protein content, many eat legumes as a replacement for meat.
When compared to cereal grains, they have around double the protein.
As well as often being featured heavily in plant-based diets, legumes are also gluten-free, making them suitable for those with coeliac diseases or a gluten intolerance.
Legumes contain three forms of dietary fibre, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, and resistant starch.
Dietary fibre is linked to better digestion, immune function and less inflammation.
Soluble fibre is gel-like and attracts water, this ‘gel’ slows down digestion and reduces blood glucose levels after a meal.
Insoluble fibre promotes regular bowel movements.
Resistant starch helps the colon by reducing pH levels and providing beneficial bacteria for digestive health.
Which legumes are most nutritious?
Chickpeas are a good source of fibre and protein.
Studies have demonstrated that chickpeas can lead to weight loss, decrease heart disease risk, and even the risk of cancer.
The latter usually occurs when chickpeas are used to replace red meat.
Being low in calories, chickpeas can be consumed in large amounts.
Chickpeas have been touted to improve gut health, which many consider to be vital for optimum digestion, physical, and mental health.
For a healthy gut, you need beneficial bacteria, and consuming gut-friendly fibre improves gut health.
Studies have shown that in a diet where chickpeas are consumed, bowel functions are improved and the amount of bad bacteria in the intestines is reduced.
Peas are another source of protein, and you may have come across pea protein powder.
Although not a traditional protein powder taste, peas can be a solid source of plant-based protein.
Peas have also been shown to reduce the increase in insulin and blood sugar following a meal, increasing feelings of satiation.
When fuller for longer, you are less likely to overeat.
Lentils can be found in a number of plant-based dishes due to them being an excellent source of protein.
One cup of lentils provides around 17.9 grams, not bad for these tiny legumes.
In a study containing over 3,000 people, those who consumed the most lentils had the lowest rates of diabetes.
Yes, peanuts are a legume.
You may have been surprised at their appearance on this list, however they are not technically a nut due to the fact that they grow underground, similar to legumes.
Peanuts are a source of mono and poly fats, B vitamins, and once again, protein.
Studies have shown that consuming peanuts is correlated with a lower risk of death from diseases such as stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
Although, peanut butter does not have this same effect!
The studies showing these are however only overvational which means it is not proven that eating peanuts actually reduces these risks.
What vitamins are in legumes?
B vitamins are important nutrients to maintain a healthy body.
They contribute to optimum digestion, metabolism, increase nervous system strength, and a lot more.
What exactly are B vitamins, you might be asking yourself.
Let’s break it down a little. There are 8 B vitamins and each is important in it’s own right.
B1, is thiamin, which aids cells in growing, and turns carbs into energy.
B1 is important for muscle, heart, and nerve function.
B2, is riboflavin, which aids the body in metabolising the other B vitamins. It also converts food into energy and helps the body make red blood cells.
B3 is niacin, which aids digestion, and ensures the nervous is functioning well. B5, pantothenic acid, is especially important in converting fats into energy.
B6 is pryidozine, which supports the immune system and aids in optimum nervous system functioning.
B6 aids the body in fighting infections and during pregnancy and infancy, it is especially for the development of a baby’s brain.
B7, is Biotin, an important vitamin to maintain the health of hair, nails, and skin.
B9 (yes, we seem to be skipping numbers here) is folate, which is important for healthy cell growth and for pregnant women.
B9 helps pregnant women to produce DNA, aiding the healthy development of the baby.
B12 (cobalamin) helps to keep the nervous system functioning well, and helps to ensure red blood cells are healthy.
B12 aids the body in producing DNA and breaking down proteins. B vitamins are water soluble, this means they dissolve in water.
They can be absorbed straight into the body to be used, with any excess removed through urine, rather than being stored in the body.
This is why they shouldn’t be boiled for too long, if the B vitamins are to be received by the body properly.
Are legumes a superfood?
The humble legume is often ignored when it comes to superfood in favour of flashier, more exciting foods.
But their nutritional profile means that they can be a great addition to many diets. Legumes are incredibly filling due to their high-fibre content, this means that we stay fuller for longer.
This aids in keeping cholesterol under control and promoting healthy bowel movements.
Bad digestion can contribute to many problems and can lead to bloating, and feeling of extreme discomfort.
Good digestion is also important for gut health, which due to the gut-brain axis has become an important focus for many.
The fibre in legumes, contribute to better gut health. Carbohydrates can provide a solid source of long-lasting energy, legumes provide a good amount of carbs into a diet.
Slow burning energy is important for day to day functioning, and satiation. One of the reasons it is considered a superfood by some is due to its high-protein continent.
On a plant based diet, it is key to ensure sufficient protein is consumed, and legumes provide an ample amount.
Lentils are a staple in many diets around the world, and as plant-based diets have become increasingly popular so has this legume.
When lentils are cooked, the body is able to absorb the iron, zinc, and calcium in the lentils much more easily than other fruits and vegetables, which when cooked, can in fact leach nutrients.
A study has shown that consuming lentils can reduce inflammation, which has been linked to various diseases including cancer, and heart disease.
What are the 7 superfoods?
It’s important to note that superfood trends come and go, which is why it can be confusing as to what counts as superfood and what should be tried.
Let’s make it a little easier, and give a mention to the 7 staple superfoods you will often hear about:
- Dark leafy greens
Berries provide a ton of nutrients, and antioxidants.
Antioxidants aid the body in defending cells against damage, which can lead to disease.
Salmon, stock full of healthy fats, the omega-3 fatty acids they provide are important as our bodies cannot produce them by themselves.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce blood pressure and maintain heart health.
We couldn’t not mention legumes on this list, as an inexpensive and easy source of plant-based protein, legumes provide a ton of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
They can be consumed, dried, canned, frozen, and are an easy addition to many meals.
Dark, leafy greens might not be the sexiest superfood however they contain a ton of nutrients essential for the optimum functioning of the body.
They provide fibre, folate, and carotenoids. Yogurt is a source of both calcium, and protein.
The live cultures within yogurt are probiotics which are important for gut health.
The good bacteria contained within the live cultures helps the gut flora to thrive.
Açai has quickly become a superfood favourite. Many see açai berries as a superfood due to it’s high antioxidant and fibre content.
Research is limited on this fruit, and many of these claims cannot be provided, however proponents of this berry believe it can help with various health issues.
The brunch favourite ‘avo on toast’ is often deemed a superfood (the avo part that is, not the toast). Avocado provides magnesium, fibre, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.
Legumes provide a whole host of essential nutrients.
They are high in both protein and fibre making them a good source of plant-based protein.
Despite them being a humble category of foods, they often feature on ‘superfoods’ list due to their ability to provide important nutrients.
They are high in B vitamins which are important for heart, nerve and muscle health.
Oftentimes, when replacing meat, lentils have been shown to lead to a reduction in inflammation in the body.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.