Legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and soy foods are an important part of a healthy diet for all Australians. Legumes have been shown to help manage both cholesterol and blood glucose. Increased intakes are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. In addition, emerging evidence indicates legumes may help in weight management.
There are a range of nutritional characteristics associated with legumes that are considered to be protective against chronic diseases. These include:
- Low saturated fat content – replacing some animal protein in the diet with legumes reduces saturated fat intake without compromising overall protein intake.
- Low glycemic index – contributes to the satiating effect of a meal and may reduce insulin responses.
- High resistant starch content – this starch is fermented by colonic bacteria to short chain fatty acids, which in turn imparts colonic health benefits.
Phytochemical content – non-nutritive bioactive compounds including antioxidants may play a role in the disease protection benefits of legumes. Legumes are also sources of phytosterols, isoflavones, saponins, and alkaloids, as well as some bioactive sugars, oligosaccharides and phytates.
GLNC recommends Australian’s enjoy legumes at least 2 – 3 times each week