Superfoods: Part 5 – Legumes

12 mins read

This final article in our series on superfoods explains the health benefits of 4 different legumes.

Legumes are a nutritious staple in diets around the world. Most legumes are considered a superfood, which are foods that are nutrient-rich and beneficial for our health and well-being. Legumes are an inexpensive source of protein, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Common legumes include beans, lentils, and peas. Fun fact: the edible seeds from the pods of legumes, which are typically what make it to our dinner plates, are called pulses. So, while the title of this article is “legumes,” technically we will describe the health benefits of 4 different pulses that are superfoods!

1. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains of chickpeas over 7,500 years old were found in the aceramic levels of Jericho and Çayönü, Turkey, meaning that humans were cultivating chickpeas before we were producing pottery! Several varieties of chickpeas are now grown across the world, with most of them being grown in Pakistan and India. Chickpeas are high in protein, fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, thiamine, and vitamin B6.

While they can be considered a high-carb food when made into hummus, studies show that hummus significantly lowers blood sugar and insulin levels when compared with other high-carb food containing wheat such as white bread,1 and that eating 26oz per week helps glycemic control.2 Eating chickpeas may also help improve blood cholesterol levels of total cholesterol as well as the “bad” low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.3 The fiber in chickpeas is also considered a gut-friendly fibre that is extremely beneficial to the gut bacteria that plays an important role in many aspects of our health. Diets containing chickpeas have been linked to improved bowel function and the reduction of “bad” bacteria in the intestines.4

2. Red Kidney Beans

Red kidney beans, also known as chili beans and red beans, are native to South America, mainly Peru and Guatemala, as well as Central Mexico. They are believed to have originated from Peru, and were brought to Europe by the Spaniards and the Portugese. The name “kidney bean” refers to the shape of the bean which looks like a kidney; however it is also true that Native Americans used this bean to treat a variety of kidney and bladder issues. Kidney beans are part of a larger group called “common beans” which were cultivated as early as 8,000 years ago.

Kidney beans are low in fat and contain protein, fibre, folate, iron, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, thiamine, calcium, and zinc. Foods with high fibre content such as these beans are known to help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood which helps in reducing blood sugar levels. For example, a study with people that have type 2 diabetes found that eating kidney beans with rice rather than the rice alone had a significantly reduced spike in blood sugar after the meal.5 The fibre and nutrients in these beans are linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer,6 which is one of the most common cancer types worldwide. The fibre also helps with digestive health by promoting the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA),7 which stimulate colonic blood flow as well as fluid and electrolyte uptake.

3. Black Beans

Black beans, also called turtle beans, are one of 500 varieties of kidney beans. They were first domesticated over 7,000 years ago in the area now known as Peru, and have since become an integral part of the South American diet. There are many types of black beans, with the black turtle bean being the most common. Like many other legumes, this superfood packs a serious nutritional punch! These beans are low in fat, while high in protein, fibre, folate, manganese, magnesium, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, copper, potassium, and zinc.

Like kidney beans and other legumes, these beans aid in the reducing the spike of blood sugar usually experienced after eating a meal, which can help with diabetes as well as weight gain. Like chickpeas, these beans are great for heart health as the dietary fibre helps reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.8 Like most legumes, this bean also has high levels of the mineral molybdenum, which mainly helps in the production of enzymes.9 These enzymes are involved in uric acid formation, transportation of iron, carbohydrate metabolism, and sulfite detoxification.

4. Lentils

Lentils are a dried seed from the lentil plant, and there are many different varieties including brown, red, green, black, and yellow. The oldest evidence of lentils dates back over 13,000 years ago in ancient Greece and Syria, and where they were originally seen as a food for the poor or lower classes. Lentils are one of the most nutrient-rich types of legumes available. They are a great source of protein, fibre, folate, manganese, iron, phosphorus, copper, thiamine, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, and niacin.

Like most other legumes, lentils are shown to reduce the increase in blood sugar after a meal, and are also linked to increased satiation (feeling full, or not hungry anymore).10 These pulses are also proven to slow the rate of the stomach emptying, called gastric emptying, which helps with digestion and prevents spikes in blood sugar.11 Another interesting thing about lentils is the body absorbs the calcium, iron, and zinc from lentils more easily after they are cooked, unlike fruits and vegetables which tend to have the nutrients leached when cooked.

Adding Legumes to our Supper is Super Beneficial

As explored in this article, adding superfood legumes to our supper and other meals can be super beneficial for our health! They are an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein, while also offering their own unique profile of essential nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Evidence shows that the above legumes can help reduce blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels and digestion while maintaining a healthy gut.

This article concludes our series on superfoods. After learning more about the health benefits and high amount of nutrients in the superfood greens, berries, seeds, and legumes, it may be a super good idea to consider how some of these foods could be incorporated into your daily meals!

Download this resource Superfoods: Part 5 – Legumes.

click to enlarge

1 Augustin, Livia, et. al. “Post-Prandial Glucose and Insulin Responses of Hummus Alone or Combined with a Carbohydrate Food: A Dose-Response Study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.

2 Pittaway, Jane, et. al. “Chickpeas May Influence Fatty Acid and Fiber Intake in an Ad Libitum Diet, Leading to Small Improvements in Serum Lipid Profile and Glycemic Control.” National Library of Medicine.

3 Pittaway, Jane, et. al. “Dietary Supplementation with Chickpeas for at Least 5 Weeks Results in Small but Significant Reductions in Serum Total and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterols in Adult Women and Men.” National Library of Medicine.

4 Fernando, W.M.U., et. al. “Diets Supplemented with Chickpea or its Main Oligosaccharide Component Raffinose Modify Faecal Microbial Composition in Healthy Adults.” Wagenigen Academic.

5 Thompson, Sharon, et. al. “Bean and Rice Meals Reduce Postprandial Glycemic Response in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes: a Cross-Over Study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.

6 Wang, Yunqian, et. al. “Legume Consumption and Colorectal Adenoma Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.

7 Topping, David, and Peter Clifton. “Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Human Colonic Function: Roles of Resistant Starch and Nonstarch Polysaccharides.” Physiological Reviews.

8 Soliman, Ghada A. “Dietary Fiber, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Disease.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.

9 “Molybdenum.” National Institutes of Health.

10 Mollard, R. C., et. al. “The Acute Effects of a Pulse-Containing Meal on Glycaemic Responses and Measures of Satiety and Satiation Within and at a Later Meal.” Cambridge University Press.

11 Lin, H. C., et. al. “Sustained Slowing Effect of Lentils on Gastric Emptying of Solids in Humans and Dogs.” National Library of Medicine.

12 Viadel, Blanca, et. al. “Effect of Cooking and Legume Species Upon Calcium, Iron and Zinc Uptake by Caco-2 Cells.” National Library of Medicine.

Visit our Resource Library for all available downloads.

If you require assistance with any of the guides, forms or templates, please contact a BIG representative.

Latest from Featured Posts

Login / Logout


Do You Want to Learn More About Membership? Click Here

Do You Want to Learn More About Membership? Click Here

How Can We Help?