Low in fat and typically high in fiber, legumes offer a variety of nutritional benefits. Numerous medical studies show these plants enhance health. Although some legumes contain “anti-nutrients” said to detract from health, appropriate preparation reduces any potential for harm, making it easy to ensure you reap only the benefits. Legumes are an affordable plant-based food and a dietary staple for many people around the globe.
Lima beans often make lists of the world’s healthiest foods as a source of fiber, protein, and vitamins. Like many other legumes, they are a heart-healthy food containing cholesterol-reducing fiber, which makes them an ideal choice to ward off cardiovascular disease. Dieticians often counsel individuals with diabetes to add lima beans to their diet because they can help prevent blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal. Not only do lima beans boast a rich, buttery taste, but they are rich in iron to boost energy levels and metabolism.
Legumes like black beans contain a protein-fiber mix that make them some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Just a single cup of black beans provides 60% of the daily recommended fiber intake. According to research, including fiber-rich black beans in one’s diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies also suggest black beans help lower blood pressure, promote healthy digestion, reduce the risk of some cancers, and even encourage weight loss. While canned black beans are convenient, they may have added sodium that people should take into consideration. Also, dried black beans require washing and soaking for 8-10 hours before cooking.
Lentils are a popular member of the legume family. These edible seeds are available in brown, red, green, and more, and each variety contains different flavors that make them ideal for different recipes, from salads to soups. Lentils are highly nutritious and contain protein, fiber, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. Medical studies found lentils contain polyphenol compounds that help guard against heart disease. They can keep blood sugar levels stable and promote digestive health.
Kidney beans are popular in many dishes, such as chili, but these delicious beans should not be eaten raw as they could contain toxic compounds. Cooked kidney beans, however, are extremely healthy legumes that are rich in fiber, protein, folate, and iron. Dieticians often encourage people with diabetes to consume kidney beans because they provide energy without destabilizing blood sugar levels. They may also guard against colon cancer and promote weight loss.
Soybeans are an important plant-based, protein-rich food for many across the globe. They are cholesterol-free and high in fiber, which makes them a great addition to a heart-healthy diet. According to scientific evidence, soybeans have the ability to reduce blood pressure and the risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers and feature anti-inflammatory properties.
Like most legumes, pinto beans are a great source of fiber. Noted for their rich, creamy texture, these beans are also high in protein, iron, vitamin B1, and vitamin B6. Eating a diet rich in pinto beans can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stabilize blood sugar levels. With their high fiber content, pinto beans can also support a healthy digestive system.
A member of the legume family, green peas share many benefits with other legumes. They are rich in fiber and high in nutrients. Green peas contain both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of many diseases including cancer. With their low glycemic index, green peas can also keep blood sugar levels stable.
Navy beans got their name from their use as a staple food in the diets of U.S. sailors. These beans are also known as haricot and white pea beans. Whatever you call them, the beans contain a wealth of nutrients like iron, B vitamins, and healthy amino acids. As a complex carbohydrate, they're another one that can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Navy beans help regulate metabolism, promote healthy digestion, and are even good for the skin because they’re rich in copper.
Slightly larger than navy beans, great northern beans are also white but boast a delicious, nutty flavor. These beans frequently feature in soups and stews. Nutritionally speaking, great northern beans are rich in protein but also low in fat. Their fiber content helps support heart and digestive health. Many people attribute weight loss to these beans because eating them makes you feel full longer, reducing the need to snack between meals.
Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts! This popular snack food is loaded with protein and other healthy nutrients including mono and polyunsaturated fats associated with improved heart health. Recent studies show eating peanuts regularly can help reduce the risk of gallstones, and their copper content may reduce the risk of some neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
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