Legumes, How come they are bad for us?
I get this response every time I tell someone that legumes are not part of a Paleo Diet. It is a look with a tilted head, squinted eyes and open mouth with a huh?
Yesterday, I got an email from a dear new friend of mine named Philip. Hey, Eileen, real quick…. Why don’t we eat legumes? I realized that many of you have that question, so here we go.
What is a Legume? Basically it a food develops a pod. It has a seam that opens on both sides. Examples of legumes are alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, carob, soy and peanuts.
First, we have heard lot’s of information about the “raw food diet” and the benefits that we derive from eating raw foods. And, there is a lot to be said about some of them… but not all of them. Some raw foods are toxic to our bodies. This may be new information for some of you. But let’s investigate what this means.
Raw red kidney beans included in the diet as low as 1% (or 37% of daily calories) can cause death in rats within 2 weeks. These beans must be soaked, cooked at a certain temperature for a certain period of time to reduce the anti nutrients found in not only these, but also all beans. This is not to frighten you, but to let you know that this is something that needs to be taken seriously. Undercooked beans have been known to cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle weakness and inflammation of the heart.
Soybeans – for oh so many reasons. Read my article on soy, but for purposes here in addition to the isoflavones (see article) soy beans causes red blood cells to clump together. (hemagglutinin), is a phytoestrogen which affects our hormonal system, is a phytate which prevents the absorption of minerals, contains saponins which causes gut irritation, and just for a sense of humor, beans give us gas.
Nutritionally beans fall short on protein when compared to chicken and turkey, seafood, lean beef and pork. “The proteins found in beans, peas and other legumes have poor digestibility” – Dr. Loren Cordain “The Paleo Answer”
Something I have wanted to address is the term “Phytate” and Anti-nutrient”. We will talk about these in another article, but for this I just want you to know the terms, what they mean and that legumes absolutely fall into this category.
Anti-nutrients impair our bodies ability to absorb and assimilate potential nutrients found in food. Here is the definition according to Wikipedia:
Antinutrients are natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Nutrition studies focus on those antinutrients commonly found in food sources and beverages.
One common example is Phytic Acid which forms insoluble complexes with calcium, zinc, iron and copper. Proteins can also be ant-nutrients, such as lectins found in legumes
Legumes contain Lectins, saponins, phytates, isoflavones, protease inhibitors and other harmful qualities.
Just as a side note, remember that grains are a huge contributing source of lectins as well. Lectins are potent antinutrients. Cooking them does reduce but not eliminate the negative impact on our bodies. These impacts include inflammation to our bodies that are directly related to autoimmune disease. Included in this category are atherosclerosis (heart disease) and cancer.
Saponins. We talked about this before, but these antinutrients are found in almost all legumes. They are derived from the Latin word for “soap” Saponins act very similar to lectins and allows toxins and bacteria to interact with our immune system. Cooking does not destroy them.
Just as a side note, soy protein isolate has dangerously high concentrations of saponins. Many athletes will find this in their shakes, energy bars or supplements. Please, Please, read your labels! If you search the web for SPI and saponins you will see tons of information and studies.
And lastly a quick note about Phytates. They prevent the full absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Eating legumes in addition to the other harmful effects leave us more nutrient deficient.
Women (and infants) particularly should be aware of the harmful effects of soy.
Remember that peanuts are not a nut, but a legume.
There are still many wonderful foods to eat. Experiment. Try a new food. Who knows, you might like it!