There are hundreds of varieties of legumes, and every one of them is good for your body in some way. Some of the varieties include peas, lentils, garbanzo bean/chickpeas and peanuts (yes, peanuts are a legume).
WHY EAT BEANS, PEAS, LENTILS AND PEANUTS?
- High in protein: 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of beans is equivalent to eating two ounces of lean protein. Nutritional guidelines recommend that most adults eat about 5 1/2 ounces of lean meat a day.
- High in fiber: ½ cup serving of cooked dry beans has 4 to 10 grams of fiber.
- Rich in complex carbohydrates.
- Good source of iron, zinc, calcium, selenium and folate.
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Low in fat.
- Provide a low glycemic index.
Research has shown that the legume family may help to reduce chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory diseases, osteoporosis, depression, obesity, cancer and stroke.
In some Eastern cultures, legumes are and were a basic dietary staple that can be traced back more than 20,000 years.
So why don’t we eat more beans? GAS is the short answer!
The jokes about gassy beans are just as common as the experience! The truth is beans do cause many people to have gas in the intestines for a very real reason.
Beans contain a triple sugar, stachyose; a quadruple sugar, raffinose; and a five sugar, verbascose that we cannot digest. We are missing an enzyme that is required to break down these sugars. When the beans get to the colon, the bacteria in the colon begins to ferment these sugars producing gas in the process.
If you gradually increase the amount of beans you eat over several weeks most people will overcome flatulence, provided you do a few simple things in terms of how you cook them and what combinations you eat. The benefit of eating more of these sugars in beans is that it promotes the growth of intestinal bacteria, and these bacteria create an environment in the colon that lowers the risk for cancer.
HOW TO DECREASE INTESTINAL GAS FROM BEANS, PEAS, & LENTILS
1. Learn how to cook beans: see my recipe. It is easy to cook beans but it requires planning ahead of time.
2. Eat lots of vegetables, particularly green ones, with your beans (75 percent of the meal should be vegetables).
3. Since beans are slow to digest, follow these guidelines:
• Eat fruit or sugar foods 2 – 3 hours away from a meal with beans.
• Only eat one protein in the same meal, as each protein requires a specific type and strength of digestive juices.
• Potatoes conflict with digestion of the beans–so avoid eating them in the same meal.
• Eat a whole grain with beans to compliment them.
4. In Japan and far East Asia they add a piece of seaweed (Kombu or Wakame) after the beans have been cooked as it makes the beans more digestible, more nutritious and tastes great! Read more about seaweed.
5. Use digestive spices: in India they cook ginger, turmeric and sometimes fennel and asafetida with beans to make them more digestible.
6. Chew and savor your beans! Digestion starts in the mouth. Savor bean soup in the mouth before swallowing to begin the process of digestion.
7. Start with mung beans, adzuki and dhal, as they are easy to digest because they are low in the complex sugars that are easily broken down by the human digestive enzymes. Even invalids can digest these ones. If you’re new to beans, start with a small amount and increase gradually by eating them once a week then twice a week, etc. Do keep up eating beans regularly so your system learns how to digest them.
Ways to include beans, peas and lentils to your diet:
- Add beans to your favorite vegetable soup or stew.
- Add beans to your salads.
- Instead of meat in chili and stews, add beans.
- Add beans to your favorite rice dishes.
- Consider making at least one day of the week a vegetarian day.
- Plan meals ahead for a week, adding beans to the daily menus.
- Try a new legume each week.