There is quite a bit of confusion about the nutritional value of legumes. For example, some people claim that legumes are very healthy, while others are not entirely convinced of this.
How healthy are legumes really? And is it true that they can be toxic?
What are legumes?
Legumes are seeds or the seeds with their casings. By legumes we mean:
- Brown, white and black beans
- Green beans (borlotti)
- Lima beans
- Kidney beans
Are legumes healthy?
Legumes are certainly healthy. They lower your LDL cholesterol, which helps to keep your blood vessels healthy. In addition, they contain protein, lots of fiber, iron and other useful nutrients. The Nutrition Center recommends eating legumes once a week.
Can you use legumes as a meat substitute?
Legumes are one of the best vegetable sources of protein and therefore very popular as meat substitutes. Nevertheless, it is important to know that the protein profile of legumes looks different from that of animal products. This is because they do not provide enough essential amino acids (the individual parts that make up proteins). Fortunately, you can solve this very easily by combining them with grains. The protein profiles of grains and legumes complement each other well.
Are legumes good for your intestines?
In addition to proteins, legumes also contain an impressive amount of fiber. These are indispensable for a healthy body and the proper functioning of your intestines. They are a food source for the good bacteria in your gut and help prevent constipation. However, you should not eat too much because legumes can promote flatulence. If you already suffer from your intestines, it is therefore important not to eat too much.
Can legumes be toxic?
The natural toxin lectin is found in legumes. Yet you don’t have to be afraid of poisoning: lectin is rendered harmless by heating. Legumes from pots or cans are already sufficiently heated and therefore contain no harmful amounts of lectins. With dried legumes, however, you must always first ensure that they have been soaked in water and then cooked for at least 10 minutes; this way you know for sure that the lectins have been rendered harmless. Legumes from the freezer are also pre-heated. If you have not heated your dried legumes sufficiently, you can incur a lectin poisoning. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, fever and mild diarrhea. These complaints often start within three hours, but you usually feel better after four to five hours. If you consume much and often lectin, your intestines and kidneys can be damaged. This means you are less able to absorb nutrients.
Legumes from glass and cans can be used unheated or heated according to the preparation method on the label. You can also prepare legumes from the freezer according to the instructions on the label. Dried legumes are another story: you have to cook them long before they are done. It is fastest when you first soak them or use a pressure cooker. How long you have to cook them varies by type. Weeks soon saves around 10 to 20 minutes. You soak legumes in three times their weight in water. You can then boil them in their weekly water.