Legumes are foods that are part of all healthy diets.
Legumes are foods that are part of all healthy diets. However, some people stop eating them because they cause some discomfort, especially gas.
Its combination of starch and complex carbohydrates, its high fiber or sugar content are some reasons. Cook them a few minutes after the soaking period, it can be a solution.
Legumes are one of the star ingredients of the Mediterranean diet.
The Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN) recommends between two and four weekly servings (25-45 grams daily).
There are countless studies showing its ability to prevent some important and highly prevalent diseases.
This is stated by Katehrine García Malpartida, member of the Nutrition area of this scientific society: “They have demonstrated their benefits both for cardiovascular health and for the prevention of other diseases such as colon and rectal cancer, diabetes or arteriosclerosis”.
The reason is that these foods are a source of protein (20-45%), slow-absorbing carbohydrates (50%) and fiber (10-50%).
They also contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and B vitamins. On the contrary, their fat content is low (1-5%); a serving of 50 grams provides around 150-170 Kilocalories.
In addition, they contain a series of bioactive compounds (phytic acid, polyphenols, saponins, glucosinolates, etc.) with various favorable properties, as Alfredo Martínez, researcher at the Center for Biomedical Research Network on the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (Ciberobn) and Director of the Precision Nutrition Program of the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies (Imdea): “They have anti-inflammatory effects that help digestion, which are beneficial for constipation and for cardiovascular protection. In addition, the slow absorption of sugars can help in diabetes ”.
Gases, the main problem
But legumes do not always feel good and some people suffer discomfort that ultimately lead them to stop consuming them. Gas, which results in heaviness, bloating and flatulence, is the main problem.
“Starch, complex carbohydrates, make fermentation in the intestine give rise to flatulence and gas in general”, acknowledges the expert from Imdea.
García adds that they can feel bad because of the amount of fiber they contain or because of the indigestible sugars, such as raffinose and stachyose, although he further clarifies that they are easily eliminated.
There is a small group of individuals who can suffer from favism, a rare disease more typical of the Mediterranean population.
“It is an enzymatic deficit due to which the carbohydrates in legumes are poorly metabolized”, explains Alfredo Martínez. Common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, malaise, and vertigo.
They may also be contraindicated in people who suffer from chronic kidney failure or who are undergoing dialysis, and in some acute processes of the digestive system in which fiber consumption is discouraged.
Except in these cases, specialists recommend not giving up at least one or two servings a week. To optimize the benefits obtained with their intake, legumes must be included in a balanced Mediterranean eating pattern.
García affirms that flatulence can be easily solved by cooking legumes for 3-5 minutes with water and a little salt, after the usual soaking period: “After straining and washing with plenty of water, we will have already eliminated the indigestible sugars responsible for the flatulence (raffinose, stachyose) and can be incorporated into the stew ”.
Martínez urges the subjects more prone to gas to pay attention to the content of legumes and lean towards those with less carbohydrates. In their opinion, lengthening the soak or cook time helps but produces negligible improvement.
Regarding one of the myths that have surrounded legumes about their antinutrient content, the SEEN expert admits that phytates hinder the absorption of some micronutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium, but points out that it is compensated by obtaining these minerals through other foods.
Another of these components are lectins, which are plant proteins that bind to carbohydrates and are capable of resisting digestion and in acid environments. For this reason, they can lead to abdominal discomfort.
A recipe to take better advantage of legumes
Martínez offers a recipe to take better advantage of legumes, which enhances their proteins and improves iron absorption:
“Mixing legumes with rice, which has a very balanced amino acid composition, enhances the proteins.
If we add onion, pepper, carrots and even a few drops of lemon, we improve the absorption of iron. Finally, if we put a little chorizo and blood sausage, which provide heme iron (associated with hemoglobin), the absorption of non-heme iron is favored ”.
For his part, García makes a recommendation to make up for the lack of legumes in those people who cannot consume them: “They can replace them by combining various elements, for example, those derived from whole grains along with other proteins.
Nuts are rich in protein, slow-absorbing carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but unlike legumes, their fat content is high ”.