Learn to love legumes: They will love you back

Legumes – the dried pea, bean and lentil family – are the Superman of the nutrition world, but their profile is more like Clark Kent’s. Here’s why you should eat legumes every day. They will help you:

  • Lose weight without feeling hungry
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Improve the health of your gut bacteria, and
  • Overcome constipation and encourage regular, soft bowel motions.

‘What’s a legume?’

There are many different varieties of legume; some of the most commonly available in Australia, include:

  • chick peas
  • split peas
  • lentils
  • kidney beans
  • cannellini beans
  • borlotti beans
  • broad beans
  • black-eyed beans
  • great northern beans
  • soy beans and products made from them, such as tofu and tempeh.

So what’s so great about legumes, and why should you eat them every day?

Beans are incredibly rich in resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate, which human digestive enzymes can’t break down in any great quantity. This means a high proportion of the calories theoretically contained in legumes, are not absorbed by our bodies.

However, this resistant starch can be digested by friendly bacteria which inhabits the lower reaches of our intestines, The bacteria turns it into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), a type of fat which our bodies doesn’t’ really absorb  (so we barely get any calories out of it). Instead, SCFA’s favourably alter the environment in our intestines, inhibiting the growth of ”bad’ bacteria and encouraging the ‘good’ bacteria to multiply.

Another huge advantage of SCFAs is their tendency to reduce appetite and decrease the production of body fat, while enhancing lipolysis, which is the break-down of fat from fat stores so it can be burnt for energy.

Resistant starch, along with the incredibly rich fibre in legumes, promotes and prolongs satiety – the feeling of fullness or satisfaction after a meal – because they absorb water and occupy large amounts of space in the stomach and small intestine.

All that fibre also softens bowel movements so you can say bye-bye to constipation!

And the fibre and resistant starch bind cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed through the intestinal wall, and instead sweeping it out of the body.

So there you have it – eating legumes on a daily basis is a brilliant idea!

Article from Hopewood contributor Robyn Chuter.


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