Legumes are a common component of vegan and vegetarian diets but in the average omnivore diet, legumes aren’t consumed frequently and don’t commonly appear on the dining table.
What are legumes?
Legumes, also known as pulses, are a family of plants including chickpeas, beans like faba, kidney, black, soy and navy beans, peas, lupins, lentils and peanuts (yes they are actually a legume!)
Why consume legumes?
Legumes are a nutritional powerhouse, they are a fantastic source of plant protein, dietary fibre and prebiotics making them fantastic for the gut. Some of the key science-backed benefits of legumes are:
Good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus
Fantastic source of plant protein
Great source of dietary fibre
Low glycemic index meaning a slow and steady release of the carbohydrates
Naturally low in fat
Help keep bowel movements regular
Associated with reduced risk colon cancer, type 2 diabetes
Associated with better blood sugar control and cholesterol
What about legumes and gut health?
As a dietitian who specialises in digestive health, legumes are one of my favourite foods. When it comes to gut health, legumes are not only incredibly beneficial due to their high fibre content and plant based protein, but they are also a natural prebiotic.
The microbiome (colony of bacteria housed in our digestive tract) feeds on prebiotic rich foods which in turn leads to a thriving and diverse microbial community in the gut. A diverse and thriving microbial community in the gut is now known to be associated with many aspects of health including immunity, digestive health, disease risk and even mental health and mood. What better reason to include legumes than a healthy digestive tract.
Healthy Ways to Include more legumes:
At the moment I am obsessed with the Human Beans Co puffed faba beans and for those who are new to consuming legumes, these can be a fun way to add them into your diet. Some of my other suggestions for upping your gut boosting legume intake are:
Incorporate chickpeas or 4 bean mix into salads
Toss Human Bean Co air puffed faba beans through salads
Sprinkle Human Bean Co air puffed faba beans on soups
Add chickpeas to stir fry dishes
Add black beans or kidney beans to tacos or chili con carne
Snack on hummus and carrots
Use pulse pasta instead of regular pasta