4 Reasons You Need to Add Legumes to Your Diet

Depending on where you live, legumes may be somewhat of an afterthought when it comes to nutrition. I actually find myself forgetting about them quite often, and only remember to pick then up occasionally when I’m at the grocery store. However, these versatile vegetables pack a serious nutritional punch that can’t be overlooked. Here are the reasons why you should start loving legumes (and keep on reading for a list of legumes to add to your diet).

The most popular form of legumes is beans, which can be purchased and prepared in a variety of ways. They’re free of saturated fat and cholesterol, low calorie, and high in fiber, and contain folate, potassium, magnesium, and healthy fats. Furthermore, legumes serve as a lean protein option in comparison to meat, with a relatively high serving of the macronutrient, considering they’re vegetables.

Legumes are a healthy food that you should definitely start eating! There are a number of studies that show legumes can help improve health. They can reduce the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks while working against the effects of diabetes.

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Want to know more about this healthy food? Here are the top four reasons why you should try to incorporate more legumes into your diet:

Free of Saturated Fats and Cholesterol

Most good sources of protein have higher concentrations of saturated fats because they come from animals. Legumes, on the other hand, are plant-based, and therefore don’t come with the saturated fats in red meat, chicken, and other animal proteins. This leads to lower cholesterol and improved conditions for your heart. Low-cholesterol diets are proven to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or experiencing other heart-related illness.

Great Source of Fiber

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Legumes contain soluble and insoluble fibers to help absorb nutrients, keep your bowel movements regular, and reduce the risk of some chronic health conditions. Legumes are a low glycemic index food, meaning they’re good for diabetics and help keep blood sugar levels under control while limiting your body’s need for insulin. The fiber in this healthy food also contributes to a healthy heart and soft arteries.

High in Folate, Potassium, and Magnesium

These vitamins and minerals play an essential role in keeping your heart and body strong and healthy. Getting sufficient folic acid makes your body less susceptible to cancer while increasing the body’s defense against disease, promoting a healthy heart. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of stroke and other heart complications by allowing blood to pass through your veins more easily. Finally, the magnesium in legumes promotes a steady heartbeat, strong bones, a healthy immune system, and regulated blood sugar levels.

Versatility

Legumes present a number of options when it comes to selection and preparation. They can be served as a side or a main dish, or added to just about anything. Here is a list of legumes (including the most popular ones):

• Peanuts

• Pinto beans

• Black beans

• Black-eyed peas

• Chickpeas

• Edamame

• Fava beans

• Lentils

• Lima beans

• Kidney beans

• Soy beans

Next time you’re grocery shopping, bring this list of legumes with you and check our recipe section for some easy legume recipes. You’ll love the heart-healthy benefits!

Source(s):
“The Benefits of Eating Fiber,” The Canadian Diabetes Association web site; http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/nutrition/fibre/, last accessed May 28, 2013.
Trinidad, T., “The Potential Health Benefits of Legumes As a Good Source of Dietary Fiber,” National Institute of Health web site, February 2010; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19825218, last accessed May 28, 2013.
Brody, J., “Life-Saving Benefits of Low-Cholesterol Diet Affirmed in Rigorous Study,” New York Times web site, January 5, 1982; http://www.nytimes.com/1982/01/05/science/life-saving-benefits-of-low-cholesterol-diet-affirmed-in-rigorous-study.html; last accessed May 28, 2013.
Kim, Y., “Folic Acid Supplementation and Cancer Risk: Point,” AACR web site, September 2008; http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/17/9/2220.full, last accessed May 28, 2013.
“Increase Potassium and cut salt to reduce stroke risk,” BBC Health News web site, April 4, 2013; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22025341, last accessed May 28, 2013.
“Magnesium,” Office of Dietary Supplements web site; http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/, last accessed May 28, 2013.