Ok, so this post has been on my mind a bit lately. I first published it over a year ago and, nutritionally speaking, I was in quite a different place back then. Wholefoods were very much my focus, but I hadn’t considered foods beyond “wholefoods good processed foods bad”. I hadn’t yet decided that I was going to start the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and I wasn’t Paleo either, and I’d probably eat tinned legumes about once a week or so feeling quite virtuous for doing so. But things have changed somewhat since then! And yesterday I received an email asking my position on legumes as a post AIP elimination phase reintroduction, based on the original version of this post. So I thought now would be a good time for an update!
Now, to be clear, legumes are excluded for the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol, and are not considered “Paleo”. This is for several reasons, including that they contain high amounts of anti-nutrients such as phytates, which can block the absorption of certain minerals, and lectins which can potentially affect gut integrity. However, they are also a good source of dietary fibre, which is good for our gut bacteria and gut health. And I loved falafels and hummus pre-AIP! So I was finding it tricky to just write them off completely…
I’ve also recently read a couple of interesting posts (which I recommend you read) from two people whose opinions and research I greatly respect – Sarah Ballantyne AKA The Paleo Mom and Chris Kresser, as well as canvassing opinions from the AIP community – and to be honest I was actually quite relieved that their position on legumes is similar to my own! So what is that?
Well, this is my current position on legumes, and AIP. AIP is not meant to be a forever diet, it is a healing diet and lifestyle where certain foods are omitted from your diet for a minimum of 30 days with the aim of reintroducing wholefoods one at a time (excluding gluten containing grains which I believe should never be reintroduced). After this process a food only needs to remain excluded if it is detrimental to your health – but, with enough time and healing you may at some stage be able to try reintroducing that food again.
I feel that as a wholefood, legumes are on the list of foods that can potentially be reintroduced after those 30 days, or at such a time as you want to try to reintroduce them. For me personally, I’m now 9 months down the track of following AIP and I’ve been able to successfully reintroduce quite a few things (tomatoes and chillies, yes! Nuts, hmmm….not so good). I’m working on the basis of reintroducing foods in order based on their nutrient density, so for that reason legumes aren’t particularly top of the list for me, but they are something I’d like to eventually reintroduce one day and, if successful, eat maybe a couple of times a month.
What is important to me now, and I want to stress this part is that if I do eat them, that they are properly prepared and cooked (definitely no more tins!) to minimise any potential negative effects. More on that further down!
Now, maybe it’s time to look at my original post….and I’ve got my red pen out to make comments where necessary – here we go!
Legumes – chickpeas, lentils, adzuki beans, lima beans, cannelini beans, oh yeah, the list goes on! But are they sexy?
Most of us have a stash somewhere in the cupboard, the odd tin of chickpeas to make impromptu hummus and kidney beans for a chilli. Well, here are 6 reasons why we should put them on more frequent rotation:
1. They are cheap. Ridiculously cheap. And if buy the dried ones that you need to soak, they are even cheaper. Need any more reasons?!
KM: Ok, good point, but let’s stick to the dried ones!
2. Legumes are an important part of the diets of two notoriously long-lived cultures – the Japanese, who regularly eat unprocessed or fermented soy foods such as endamame, miso and tofu, and the Mediterraneans who love getting stuck into legumes such as chickpeas, cannelini beans and lentils. In a 7 year study, researchers found that for every 20 grams of legumes eaten each day the risk of death was reduced by 8% for the elderly in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Australia – no other food group has shown benefits such as these!
KM: Here’s the link!
3. They help maintain stable blood sugar levels due to their low glycaemic load.
KM: Yup, I still go with that.
4. They can help with weight management due in part to the fact they are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibre, which helps you feel full quicker and for longer. They are also very low in fat.
KM: Hmmm…maybe lets just delete the “low in fat” bit, I no longer see that as a benefit in itself….
5. Consistent evidence from epidemiological studies shows legumes can play a role in preventing chronic diseases, such as heart disease. type 2 diabetes.
KM: The benefit seems to come from the dietary fibre in legumes, which is also present in fruit and vegetables. Not enough research has been conducted on legumes themselves. So, I’m deferring judgement on this for a while!
6. They are great for colon health! The presence of resistant starch is broken down by bacteria in the colon, which makes the bacteria happy and “feeds” the colon.
KM: Yep, totes agree!
For optimum benefits we need to eat these little fellas at least 4 times a week…..but start gently….if you haven’t been much of a lentil muncher up til now, you need to ease your body into new habits. Bodies don’t like change, even healthy ones, it freaks them out. So start with once or twice a week, see how you go, and increase from there.
KM: This is up to the individual and their own tolerance, but I’d rather fill up on nutrient and mineral rich meat and veggies, saving legumes for an every now and then thing.
Tips on preparation -If using dried, soak them. For at least 4 hours, leave them overnight if you can. Then boil them in fresh water for 10 mins before turning down to a simmer. Don’t use too much water as this leaches out the nutrients – use enough so the beans don’t stick. Cannelini beans should be done in about an hour, bigger legumes like chickpeas may take longer, just keep checking every 10-15 minutes.
KM: Soak overnight, no less than that, at room temperature. Then follow the rest of the instructions.
If using tinned legumes, rinse them thoroughly. Then you’re good to go!
KM: No! Stop! Follow instructions above 🙂
And a word about “making music” – if legumes do make you toot, you can cook them in a lot of water and change the water a few times. This leaches out the oligosaccharides – the noisy part of the legumes! – but as it also leaches out nutrients it’s not ideal…you can also try adding flatulence reducing herbs and spices such as cumin, ginger, cardamom and fennel – great for a curry! Over time, you should find your digestive system gets used to all the fibre it’s receiving from your legumes and it will know what to do with it and stop embarrassing you.
KM: Legumes contain FODMAPs, so if you decide to eat legumes in moderation and you experience lower abdominal pain and / or discomfort along with “tootiness” then I’d suggest not persevering with them and if other foods give the same effect then you may want to look into the low FODMAPs diet. If you are experiencing pain I’d definitely suggest seeing your healthcare practitioner.
So are they sexy? I’m going to say yes! Aside from the farting (ahem) there are so many great reasons to add legumes into your diet. And they are cheap. And that’s sexy 😉
KM: Let’s aim for nutrient density and wholefoods and sure, legumes may be able to play a role in our diet if we are able to reintroduce them, but lets have them as a sometimes food rather than an every day “filler” food.
Hummus Ahoy! xx
KM: One day! Hopefully!! Hope this helped 🙂