Time for an extreme legume makeover – by guest expert Michelle Broom APDExpert Examiner — By Emma Stirling on September 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm
Ok, ok, I know you know that legumes are full of nutrients, inexpensive and good for you. But, while dietitians talk up their health benefits, it seems that many people are just not getting the message. During our busy week at the International Congress of Dietetics we caught up with the latest news on legumes and an expert with a simple solution – give legumes a long deserved, extreme makeover.
About our expert:
Michelle Broom is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and the Nutrition Manager at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC), the source of independent information on the role of grains and legumes in health. As part of her role Michelle helps keep dietitians and other health care professionals up-to-date with the latest research news in the world of grains, legumes and health. She also makes a pretty tasty chicken cacciatore with red lentils!
Observational studies suggest regular consumption of legumes is linked to longer life and reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.1,2,3 This correlates with comprehensive reviews of intervention trials that indicate that not just soy but other legumes such as lentils and beans can help manage both cholesterol and blood glucose.4,5 Emerging evidence indicates legumes may also help in weight management.6 Read more in the recently released GLNC report: Lifting the Lid on Legumes.
Aim for at least two 75g (1/2 cup) serves of legumes a week is a good start, but evidence indicates people who eat legumes four times or more times a week are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.7
Legumes are also a great bang for your buck as they’re more cost effective than meat or fish.8 So bringing down the cost of your family meal is as easy as replacing some meat with kidney beans, lentils or chickpeas. And if you want to buy Aussie-grown, then look no further than your humble legume. Australia grows more than 12 different types of legumes and we are the world’s leading chickpea exporter as well as in the top five producers of faba beans.9 With all those benefits it seems like a no-brainer that we would be reaching for legumes several times a week.
But, according to a survey by the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, only 1 in every 5 Australians eats legumes regularly.
The survey suggests that people aren’t sure how to cook them and are afraid of the side effects10 (Baked beans, good for your heart; Baked bean, make you fart…). Let’s take a closer look at those barriers.
Aren’t legumes difficult to cook?
Most dried legumes need to be soaked to make them easier to digest and absorb the nutrients. If you need them in a hurry you can opt for a ‘quick soak’ method where you bring them to a boil then let them stand for one hour. Alternatively, use split peas or lentils which don’t need to be soaked at all, just boil them for about 20 minutes or add them directly to your casserole as it cooks. No time to soak? Reach for a can! The sodium can be reduced by half just by rinsing them thoroughly.11 They even come in single serve sizes which are flavoured or mixed with tuna or vegetables, perfect for work or school.
Won’t they give me gas?
A recent study suggests not everyone gets gas from legumes and most people adjust after about 8 weeks.12 Just like any high fibre food, don’t rush in and eat legumes three times a day. Start off slowly by eating them once a week then gradually eat more, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. Gas is caused by the galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) in the legumes. These can be reduced by different preparation methods. Try these tips:
Change the water once or twice while they soak.
When you’re ready to cook, drain the soaked legumes and use fresh water for cooking.
If you’re using canned legumes, rinse them before adding to your meal.
Some cultures are great at using legumes in different ways. The Mediterranean diet springs to mind straight away with cannellini and butter beans, but then there’s also the North African Cuisine with faba (fava) bean falafels, and Middle Eastern hummus not to mention Mexican dishes which nearly always include beans. With all these delicious cuisines to choose from it’s a shame Australian’s often role out the legume only in winter soup mix. C’mon Aussies it’s time for a extreme makeover. How about this French Style Lentil and Quinoa Salad? And jump across and read our Tips and Tricks to enjoying legumes more often and get creative in the kitchen.
Thanks Michelle. I love legumes but am always on the hunt for recipes. I bet our lovely readers have a few to share? Drop us your legume loving links below.
- Darmadi-Blackberry I, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20.
- Flight I and Clifton P. Cereal grains and legumes in the prevention of coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of the literature. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;60(10):1145-59
- Villegas R, Gao Y, Yang G, Li H, Elasy T, Zheng W, and Shu X. Legume and soy food intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87:162-167
- Bazzano LA, et al. Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Feb;21(2):94-103.
- Sievenpiper J,et al. Effect of non-oilseed pulses on glycaemic control: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled experimental trials in people with and without diabetes. Diabetologia. 2009;52:1479-1495
- McCrory MA, et al. Pulse consumption, satiety, and weight management. Adv Nutr. 2010;1(1):17-30.
- Bazzano LA, et al. Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Arch Intern Med. 2001 Nov 26;161(21):2573-8.
- Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. Meat and alternative product audit. 2012
- Pulse Australia
- Colmar Brunton. Project Go Grain. 2011
- Duyff RL, et al. Sodium Reduction in canned B=beans after draining, rinsing. J Culinary Science and Technology. 2011;9(2):106-112
- Winham DM, Hutchins AM. Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies. Nutr J. 2011 Nov 21;10:128.