Legumes are a good source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, fiber, iron and magnesium and, thanks to their low glycemic index, a protective factor for the development of diabetes.
Legumes are a good source of plant-based protein, B vitamins, fiber, iron, and magnesium. However, in recent decades their consumption has been progressively reduced for various reasons (lack of time, false belief that they “get fat”, etc.). And yet, we should include them in our diet at least 2 times a week.
Legumes against diabetes
The characteristics of these complex sugars and the fiber content of legumes has been the subject of debate. A recent publication by the Study group on the Mediterranean diet shows that those participants who consumed more legumes (and especially lentils) developed less type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. They conclude that the habitual consumption of legumes within a Mediterranean diet pattern is a factor protector for the development of diabetes.
This is explained because rapid increases in blood glucose after meals predispose to type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Legumes have a low glycemic index, that is, the rise in blood glucose after ingestion is slow and sustained, therefore that have a certain protective effect. Whole grain cereals and underripe fruit, especially eaten with the skin on, also have a low glycemic index.
Lentils are rich in vitamin B1, B3, B6, and folic acid. They also contain iron and selenium and are usually the best tolerated legumes at the intestinal level.
Chickpeas provide vitamin B2, B3, B6, manganese, copper, iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids (oleic and linoleic). Fava beans provide vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and folic acid in addition to iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The beans, if consumed with their green pod, also have diuretic properties.
The fiber provided by legumes has the additional benefit of stimulating the balanced growth of the microbiota (a group of microorganisms previously known as intestinal flora). The ideal diet is one in which different legumes are alternated and these are combined with cereals such as rice or quinoa.
In the Mediterranean diet, it is recommended to consume legumes 2 to 3 times a week. However, those who follow a mostly vegetarian diet should increase the amount up to 5 times a week.
The recommended serving sizes vary with age and with the specific nutritional needs of each person. The order and time of introduction of each legume in early childhood should be set by the pediatrician to avoid intolerances and allergies.
Usually, children should consume 40-gram rations raw; adolescents and adults will receive servings of 60-80 grams and the elderly rations of 50-60 grams. Its consumption is not recommended in some digestive pathologies in which the fiber intake must be reduced (such as Crohn’s disease in a flare or acute diverticulitis), as well as in those situations in which increased meteorism causes complications (such as ileostomies and colostomies ).