For one to get the required nutrients in the body, including proteins, carbohydrates and fats in their diets is essential, according to nutritionists. They, however, advise that consuming legumes is important as they are a great source when it comes to providing the above nutrients. Beans, nuts and lentils are good examples of legumes.
Good for vegetarians
According to Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Kigali, for vegetarians, legumes can be a substitute for meat, as one will still get the required nutrients and lower the fat intake.
He adds that they also boost fibre and protein intake, therefore, having them two or three times a week promotes healthy cholesterol levels and helps protect against heart disease.
He further explains that this is so because legumes are known for their fibre and antioxidants, as well as their aid in prevention of some diseases.
“Most of the different types of legumes contain healthy fat, protein and carbohydrates. To avoid the high fat and sodium content, legumes such as peanuts and nuts should be consumed when dry and unsalted,” he notes.
On the other hand, Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition at University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), says that legumes are high in B-group vitamins, irons, calcium, phosphorous, zinc as well as magnesium.
Uwiragiye says Zinc, manganese and phosphorus make up three of the several minerals that one needs for good health.
“Zinc supports normal growth and development, plays a role in immune system functions and metabolic functions in one’s cells. While Manganese helps the body form connective tissue, bone and sex hormones,” he says.
He again notes that apart from that, manganese also plays a role in metabolic processes like calcium absorption, glucose regulation and normal functions of the brain and nerves. It also offers antioxidant activity to protect the cells from harmful molecules.
For women who are of child bearing age, Uwiragiye notes that consuming legumes is essential as they are a good source of foliate and antioxidants, which is essential for them.
Low in saturated fat
Legumes and whole grains are considered complementary proteins, according to Kamanzi.
“Legumes contain all nine essential amino acids; they form a complete protein when consumed together. Soybeans are an exception as they do provide a complete, high-quality protein,” he says.
He adds that legumes such as fresh and dried varieties also contain significant amounts of antioxidant compounds, blueberries being a good example.
According to a recent study carried out by American Heart Association, eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The study further adds that replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles.
For Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, legumes are good sources of fibre when included in a daily diet.
Rich in fibre
“Legumes are at the top of the list for sources of fibre. For instance, the insoluble fibre they contain helps in prevention of constipation,” he says.
Tabaro points out that apart from insoluble fibre, they also contain soluble fibre, which helps keep blood sugar balanced and lowers the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. He notes that legumes work wonders when it comes to prevention of cardiovascular disease. Legumes, Tabaro says, do more than provide energy for the body.
“They nurture and support good health, additionally, legumes are a low-fat, high-protein source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant compounds and dietary fibre which are all essential when it comes to the health of the body,” he says.
Nuts such as soy nuts contain high concentrations of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Similar to beans, peas also contain high concentrations of carbohydrates and protein but little fat.
For those who are struggling to lose weight, Tabaro points out that the combination of protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates in legumes creates a very satisfying food, which helps one feel full quickly and stay full longer. This, according to him, prevents one from going for unhealthy snacks in between the meals, which are not healthy. This is because consuming these legumes makes one feel full all the time.