9 Reasons for Including Beans and Lentils in Your Diet
We often come to note from various sources that legumes are good choices if you are on diet. You can safely include beans and lentils in your diet if you are a weight-watcher. In fact you can happily include legumes because they taste great as well! Legumes are known for their beneficial effects on various body functions. Let us explore the top reasons for including more legumes in our diet:
9 Reasons for Including Beans and Lentils in Your Diet
- Get More Iron: Beans and Lentils are good sources of iron, which is required for the production of hemoglobin (transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells) in the blood. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition in which the blood has lesser number of red blood cells. Combine iron-rich legumes with good sources of Vitamin C (such as oranges, lemon, tomatoes, guava etc) to increases your body’s ability to absorb the iron. One cup of beans and lentils provide 30 to 37 percent of the daily value (DV) for iron.
- Maintain Your Weight by Reducing Your Food Cravings: A research published in 2008 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people who consumed beans regularly had a 22 percent reduced risk of obesity as compared with people who hadn’t regularly eaten beans. The research also found that bean-eaters had a greater probability of having a smaller waist size. According to researchers, the soluble fiber in beans slows down the rate of digestion and this allows the feeling of fullness to stay for a longer period of time.
Additionally, legumes are energy-rich foods which prevent the pancreas from secreting excess amount of insulin. Secretion of large amounts of insulin is followed by a fall in the blood sugar level, which in turn, causes food cravings. This in turn, increases the body’s urge for refined starches. Replacing foods which contain excessive fructose with legumes can prevent the pancreas from secreting large amounts of insulin. This can lead to the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels. The ultimate effect is observed in the food cravings reduction which results due to a feeling of fullness.
- Protect Yourself from Type 2 Diabetes: The soluble fiber in beans and lentils also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, an important factor to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Canadian researchers analyzed the results of 41 randomized, controlled clinical trials in 2009 and found that people who regularly ate legumes had steadier blood-sugar levels than people who didn’t. The high fiber content in legumes slows the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream while providing steady, slow-burning energy.
- Enhance the Functioning of Enzymes: Beans are enriched with copper, a key mineral essential for the proper functioning of several enzymes. For example, copper along with manganese (also found in beans) is an essential cofactor of a key oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which neutralizes free radicals produced within the mitochondria – the cell’s “power plant”. Copper is also the mineral responsible for the formation of skin pigment and connective tissues. One cup of cooked beans (such as navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, adzuki beans) provides anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of the DV for copper. One cup of cooked lentils provides 25 percent of the DV for copper.
- Get More Protein: Legumes are considered as good-quality sources of proteins which contribute critical nutrition to man as well as animals. When combined with a whole grain such as brown rice, legumes provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. One cup of cooked lentils provides around 35 percent of the daily protein requirement, and one cup of cooked beans provide around 30 percent of the daily requirement.
- Prevent Birth Defects: A woman who is trying to conceive should consider including sources of folate in her diet. Folate prevents birth defects, and you can get more than 80 percent of your daily folate requirement from one cup of cooked lentils! Beans also contain significant amounts of folate. For example, one cup of cooked kidney beans provides 57 percent of the daily folate requirement.
- Bring Down the Risk of Cancer: Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined a dietary data of 90,360 women who fell in the age group of 26 to 46 years. The data revealed that the women who ate beans and lentils for at least twice a week had a 25 percent lower risk of suffering from breast cancer than those who ate legumes just once a month. Legumes fight obesity and this way it prevents the development of obesity related cancers. Refined carbs fuel the cancer cells with sugar and when these foods are replaced with legumes, the body would develop the immunity to fight cancer.
- Lowers Your Heart Disease Risk: Beans and lentils, being high in soluble fiber, can help lower total cholesterol as well as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Soluble fibers binds to bile acids (necessary for fat digestion) made by the liver from cholesterol and carry it to intestine for defecation. As a result, the liver must use additional body stores of cholesterol to manufacture new bile acids. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who eat the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12 percent less coronary heart disease and 11 percent less cardiovascular disease compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily.
Additionally, both beans and lentils are a good source of folate and magnesium. Folate, a B vitamin, helps to lower levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine can damage blood vessels leading to a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease. Magneisum, on the other hand, helps control the neuromuscular activities of heart so that heart beats in a regular rhythmic pattern. It also helps prevent abnormal blood clotting in the heart, and lower your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
- Regulate Your Blood Pressure: A research conducted in Australia concluded that the condition of hypertension can be prevented via the intake of dietary protein and soluble fiber. And legumes are good sources of both these nutrients.
It would not be a compulsion for you to include legumes in your diet. This is because, legumes are tasty treats and you can come up with innovative recipes to enjoy the tastes of legumes. If you are a vegetarian, then legumes are good sources of plant protein for you!
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