Beans are loved by many for their availability and high protein content. They can be delicious and filling, but they can also cause some serious problems, such as gas and bloating, as well as cramps and upset stomach.
In general, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the effect of legumes on our digestive system and health in general. Some approaches recommend placing them at the head of the diet, while others, such as paleo diets and medical practitioners, advise to watch out for them. Personally, I continue to consume lentils 2-3 times a week. But since every body is different and every digestive system is different, only you can make the right choice for your body.
Several reasons for the "dubious" fame of legumes
Saponins: Beans become a "music product" because they contain saponins. They protect the plant from insects, but when cooking for our food, they form a soapy foam on the surface of the pan. They prevent proteins from being absorbed, resulting in stagnation of intestinal contents and gas formation.
Phytic Acid: Phytate, an organic compound, is often present in untreated seeds of legumes, oats and other grains, providing a powerful binding effect on minerals. It has been proven to significantly reduce the absorption of magnesium, zinc and calcium by the human body. In short, legumes contain substances that interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals … Yes, they are, but only if they were not prepared correctly.
Liquid lentil soups are generally too heavy for the Western digestive system, not used to using legumes as a source of protein.
Inability to digest digestive fibers: In addition to the phytic acid found in legumes, the harder ones (beans and Turkish beans) contain oligosaccharides. The absorption of these complex sugars is impossible without some outside help, because the human body does not produce the enzyme alpha-galactosidase needed to break them down.
Starch content: Given that most people in the Western world are prone to diabetes, starchy foods can cause spikes in blood sugar. This does not mean that pre-diabetics or diabetics cannot consume any legumes, but they should not form the basis of the daily diet. When I spoke to Frank Lipman, MD and a multiple bestselling author on legumes, he recommended limiting them to 1/2 cup per day.
Several pros for including legumes in the diet
Vegetable Proteins: Looking at the energetic aspects of food, a diet consisting mainly of animal protein is highly rajasic or tamasic (depending on the source and preparation) in its influence. Simply put, it makes a person lethargic and aggressive towards himself and others. For this reason, consuming plant-based proteins such as legumes is important for variety and dietary density reduction. But keep in mind that legumes have more carbohydrates than protein, and the protein they contain is incomplete, and to supplement them, legumes need to be seasoned with herbs, seeds (like hemp seeds), or grains (quinoa).
Legumes contain fiber, which has a cleansing and detoxifying effect: fiber is known to have an effect on macronutrient transport and metabolism (eg, decreasing glucose metabolism). Its ability to bind to heavy metals and organic carcinogens can be an important defense mechanism against toxicity.
Organic plant foods are easy to find and relatively inexpensive: while wild seafood and plant-raised meat can be quite expensive, organic legumes are very affordable.
How to include grains and legumes in your diet without risking your well-being
Our ancestors have consumed beans for thousands of years and have long used methods to make them more digestible. We can learn a lot from them, from using fermentation processes to steeping and germinating.
Remember that small lentil grains are generally easier to digest than larger beans. Each type of lentil and beans has its own properties. For example, red lentils are a greater provocateur of imbalance than golden beans (they are more difficult to digest and more drying).
I am pleased to share with you a few secrets for cooking legumes:
- Soak them for at least 48 hours. Not just for "night", as many recipes prescribe, but for 1-3 days. The most important aspect in properly preparing the beans is to start the processing process a few days before meals. The longer they are soaked, the easier they will be absorbed. Soak the beans in very warm alkaline water. The ideal temperature is between 120 and 148 degrees, since oligasaccharides are degraded by enzymes at a temperature of 150 degrees. The water's pH (pH) also matters - hard water should be avoided. An easy way to make the water more alkaline is to add a little lemon juice.
- Change the water several times. While soaking, drain the water and rinse the beans several times. Changing the water will get rid of the antinutrients in the beans.
- Cook them slowly and slowly. Whether you sprout them or soak them, try to simmer the beans for a long time. Slow holding on the stove gives good results, as does slow cooking in the oven or burner. I love to cook beans in a multicooker with a clay bowl.
- Serve with fermented foods. When I cook Pinto Mexican Beans, I try to serve them with lacto-fermented salsa. A spoonful of sauerkraut will solve the problem when cooking Turkish bean soup. The beans will also be much tastier if you sprinkle them with fermented cream.
- Soak and cook with Kombu. The only trick I haven't tried myself yet is soaking the beans with the Kombu strip. Kombu is a sea vegetable that contains an enzyme needed to break down oligosaccharides.
- Prepare simple meals. It is generally best not to mix legumes with dairy, meat, fish, or fruit. Combining with vegetables and grains will be the most acceptable option.
- Add spices such as coriander, cumin, fennel, and turmeric.
- Drink medicinal teas on legume days. Fennel, anise, dill, mint and coriander seeds are especially good.
Photo: Getty Images, personal archive
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