What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
The word legume refers not only to the species of plants, but also to any fruit that grows seeds lined up in a pod. (I find it interesting that peas and black beans are actually considered to be fruit.) Also known as Pulses, legumes include beans, soybeans, lentils, peas, peanuts, snap beans and edible pods.
Legumes are full of protein and fiber, but most of their calories come from carbohydrates. Because they are starches it makes it easy to make them part of your meals in place of pasta, rice or potatoes.
I believe that these little guys are one of the most powerful changes you can make in your diet. One study of 10,000 men and women showed that eating a single serving of lentils or chick peas per week reduced the risk of heart disease. The cool thing is that the more you eat, the lower your risk. The research showed that having legumes four or more times per week reduced the risk of heart disease by 22%. Twenty two percent! That's huge! And all you have to do is have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.
We also have great evidence showing that soybeans and soy products prevent not just heart disease but cancers as well. There has been controversy about whether soy might increase the risk of breast cancer in women, but recent research shows that this is not the case. It may be that more soy in the diet actually helps to prevent breast cancer.
We know this is true for other cancers. One research trial showed that those eating the most beans had 65% fewer colon polyps and 50% fewer colon cancers.
This is one change that's really easy to make part of your life. Snacking on peanuts and having peanut butter sandwiches for lunch are easy ways to add more legumes to your diet. Chili in all its endless varieties, and soups like split pea, navy bean and black bean, are really easy to make. Keeping frozen peas on hand as well as cans of no salt added beans in the pantry means you'll always have enough to get more than four servings a week.
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