Here are 7 surprising facts about legumes. Yes,#2 and #6 are doozies.
Let it be said that legumes are healthy for some people and not for others.
What really gets my lentils up, though, is all this talk about legumes being high in protein.
As I mentioned in this article, we scientists disregard words like low, medium and high if there’s no context.
So ARE legumes high in protein?
If you don’t know the answer, keep reading and find out.
7 surprising facts about legumes
1. Legumes are one of the cheapest sources of protein on the planet 🙂
Compared with other sources of protein, legumes are cheaper to grow, easy to store (dried) and easy to transport.
This means a lower cost to produce and you pay less.
2. Legumes are lower in protein than to animal proteins 🙁
You have to dry, soak, ferment and/or cook legumes properly to get rid of toxins and anti-nutrients, and make them edible.
This treatment is essential – BUT – it lowers the protein content of legumes.
Compare some of the world’s main food staples and you’ll see:
- Cooked legumes provide around 8g protein/100g serve.
- Grains provide around 10g protein/100g serve.
- Cooked meat, chicken or fish at around 25g protein/100g serve.
So depending on what you’re eating and what your daily protein requirements are, relying on legumes might not be enough.
And if you’re a vegetarian, the phytates in legumes reduce the digestibility of their starches, proteins and fats, meaning you are actually getting less protein.
To me, the protein in legumes is not worth writing home about.
3. Legumes are (actually) high in fibre 🙂
Other than being just a marketing term, the definition of ‘high fibre’ varies from country to country.
In Australia, a food is considered high in fibre if there’s at least 3g of fibre per 100g food.
According to that definition, legumes romp it in because most legumes contain 6 – 9g fibre per 100g.
4. Legumes contain anti-nutrients 🙁
A lot of legume studies are investigating their anti-nutrient (phytate and lectin) content.
These anti-nutrients block mineral absorption, can cause digestive upsets, or may do more serious damage to your intestinal lining, or auto-immune issues.
Legumes, especially red kidney beans, contain some of the highest amounts of lectins of any food.
Even in different races who have eaten legumes for centuries, there are concerns over low iron status due to anti-nutrient intake.
And if you’re an A, B or AB blood type….these anti-nutrients may affect you more.
5. Legumes contain incomplete protein – so you need to add other protein sources 😐
In case you didn’t know, there are 20 amino acids that your body needs, and 9 of these are ‘essential’ – because your body can’t make them.
To get the essential amino acids in the course of a day, you need to eat legumes plus:
- Dairy food, or
- Grains, or
- Nuts, or
6. Legumes are mainly carbohydrates 😐
If you look at the nutritional profile of cooked beans, a 100g serve gives you about 23g of carbohydrates.
That’s ok for some, but something to be careful of for others who are following a low-carb way of eating.
7. Legumes contain healthy nutrients 😐
Yes, legumes contain vitamins and minerals that are healthy, although their absorption might be affected by anti-nutrients.
If legumes don’t sit well with you, then you can get those same nutrients from other plant foods.
Wrapping it Up
Yes, legumes can have a place in your diet (aka the way you eat).
Let’s just be clear that they’re not so good for certain body types, and they may OR may not help you reach your health goals.
Were you surprised by what you read in this blog, or did it confirm something for you? Let me know in the comments below.
And if you need help working out whether legumes are right for you or not, get in touch and we’ll have a chat.
Chief Inspiration Coach
I'm a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 40+ women gain the motivation, structure and confidence they need to eat right for their body type.