You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy the benefits of regularly including legumes in your diet. If we’re being honest, though, most people shy away from them because of the near-certain gastrointestinal discomfort that usually follows—flatulence.
Despite the minor embarrassment you might experience, there are plenty of reasons to mix these superfoods in daily meals.
What Are Legumes?
Legumes come from the family of plants known as “Fabaceae.” They are the fruit or the seed of these plants. Beans, peas, and lentils all belong to the family of legumes.
Here are nine reasons why everyone should be eating more of them.
Nine Reasons Why Everyone Should Be Eating More Legumes
1. They’re Inexpensive
These days, money is tight for a lot of people. As a result, groceries can get expensive—especially if you eat lots of meat—making it difficult for almost anyone to get the proper nutrition to live a healthy lifestyle.
One of the best things about legumes is how much money they can save you in the long run. For example, the average cost per pound of beef in the United States is between $4 and $6, whereas the average cost per pound of beans is less than half.
In terms of nutrition, meat is a denser source of protein, but you can get twice the beans for the same price—and receive even more health benefits.
Imagine if you replaced meat with legumes just once per day. Those dollars can add up quickly, especially if you purchase dried instead of canned beans.
2. They’re Good for Your Heart
While legumes are great for your wallet, they’re even better for heart health.
Legumes are low in cholesterol, high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), high in plant protein, are packed with micronutrients, and maintain a low-fat level.
A 2001 study discovered a link between the consumption of legumes and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in men and women in the United States. Furthermore, they found an inverse relationship between regular consumption of legumes and the risk of coronary heart disease—a 22% risk reduction!
Legumes take longer to digest due to the higher levels of soluble and insoluble fibers. This reduces your cholesterol levels, which helps you avoid heart disease.
3. They’re High in Protein
Protein is an essential building block for the human body. Without it, you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will slow down, and you feel weak and fatigued.
Most people get their protein from meats, but legumes are an excellent alternative. A single serving of most varieties of legumes will pack in 10 to 18 grams of protein, so if you’re trying to bulk up, you don’t necessarily need to eat chicken breasts, steaks, and eggs for every meal—just treat yourself to a nice bean-heavy entre.
4. Legumes Help Fuel Your Immune System
Maintaining a strong immune system is crucial to your health during this period. Despite what many people claim, your immune system protects you from just about everything when fueled well enough. That’s what it’s for, after all.
Did you know that approximately 70% of your body’s immune response comes from your gut? In addition, the human body contains several pounds of bacteria, which strongly influence our immune systems.
Raffinose is a type of carbohydrate found in beans, which your gut bacteria feed on. This carbohydrate can also be found in other vegetables like Brussel sprouts and asparagus.
So, every time you eat beans, you fuel your gut bacteria and help keep your immune system energized and ready to respond.
5. They’re Rich in Fiber
If you’ve ever eaten a serving of beans and later found yourself uncomfortably gassy, there’s a reason. That reason is fiber.
Fiber acts as a cleaning and cleansing agent in your gut and intestinal tracts. When you don’t get enough fiber from your diet, it’s common to experience irregular bowel movements, fluctuations in blood sugar, constipation, and even a lack of satiety after eating.
Not getting enough fiber results in a buildup of “junk” in your body, so flatulence shouldn’t come as a surprise when you finally eat legumes.
Legumes are extremely rich in fiber-containing, somewhere around 12 grams per serving. So, if you start to include legumes into your diet, it will be easy to get the fiber you need.
After eating legumes regularly, you won’t have to worry about embarrassing gas anymore.
6. They’re Environmentally Friendly
One of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions comes directly from the meat industry. So the more meat you eat, the more damage you cause to the planet.
If every person in the country simply stopped eating meat one day per week, we could begin to reverse the threat of climate change. On top of that, no cows have to die!
7. They’re Versatile (Deserts, Peanut Butter, Egg whites, and So on)
Also, a popular favorite—peanut butter—comes from the world of legumes. Peanuts aren’t actually nuts—they’re classified as legumes.
8. They Help Regulate Blood Sugar
Legumes are low on the glycemic index, despite containing carbohydrates. They have complex carbohydrates, which take longer for your body to digest. This prevents spikes in your blood sugar and keeps levels stable for longer.
9. They May Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, foods high in fiber (such as beans) may help to reduce your risk of cancer. But what really helps is the high level of antioxidants found in legumes. Red kidney beans and pinto beans are great examples of cancer-preventing legumes and edamame.
Whether you want to lose weight or stay healthy, eating more legumes is a great way to get there!