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Preparing legumes to maximise nutrition and minimise adverse effects

By Tamzyn Murphy

BSc Med(Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, RD

 

Legumes (peas, beans, lentils and peanuts) contain pesky and destructive anti-nutrients, which bind to other nutrients in food, inhibiting their absorption. Anti-nutrients also irritate the gut-lining, causing stomach trouble and making the gut ‘leaky’ – allowing proteins and other-usually ‘banned’ components through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. This may result in immune system problems including inflammation and possibly even autoimmune diseases.

 

However, legumes (especially soya) are great proteins sources for vegetarians, and even more so for vegans. They’re also a good source of fibre, B vitamins and other micronutrients. In order to reap legumes’ nutritional rewards without incurring the destructive health effects wreaked by their anti-nutrients you have to prepare them right.

A. Soak, sprout, cook, grind and ferment: The best way to do away with pesky anti-nutrients.

  1. Soak:
    • Cover dry legumes with warm water, acidified with vinegar or lemon juice, in a glass jar.
    • Cover the jar’s opening with a clean cloth secured with a rubber band.
    • Place the jar in a warm location for 12-24 hours.
    • Drain water out through the cloth and then rinse the legumes and drain again.
  1. Sprout
    • Store the damp legumes in a dark place (e.g. cupboard). Ensure the jar is on its side. Elevate the base slightly using a rolled-up or folded dish cloth. Place paper towels or a dishcloth beneath the cloth-covered side of the jar to allow the remaining water to drain out.
    • Rinse and drain the legumes twice a day.
    • Allow them to sprout (germinate) for a total of 3-5 days.
  1. Cook (boil) (optional/preferable)
    • Place legumes in pot.
    • Cover with water.
    • Bring to the boil on high heat.
    • Once boiling, turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for at least one hour. Ideally you can leave them to cook all day in a slow cooker.
  1. Grind, mash or break (optional/preferable)
    • Use a blender or food processor or mash (if cooked)
  2. Ferment
    • Add a powdered starter culture (as directed) or kefir (about one tablespoon culture per one cup of legumes) to the damp legumes in the jar. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid this time.
    • Allow the legumes to ferment for several days.
    • The jar needs to be ‘burped’ (briefly opened to release gases) daily. A protruding lid indicates that too much gas is building up, which needs releasing.

 

B. Soak properly and cook thoroughly: An abbreviated version that’s not as effective as the process above, but still inactivates most of the anti-nutrients.

  1. Soak:
    1. Soak dry legumes in warm water, acidified with vinegar or lemon juice, for 12 hours (preferably in a warm location)
  2. Drain legumes (discard water)
  3. Rinse legumes
  4. Repeat steps a, b and c twice (totalling 36 hours of soaking time)
  5. Boil legumes: Follow A.3. above
  6. Ferment (optional)
  7. Follow A.5. above. However, before fermenting it is essential to ensure that you break the skins by mashing or exerting enough downward pressure on the legumes to just break them.

 

References:

  1. Food & Wine. Step-by-step guide to Sprouting beans at home. http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/sprouting-beans#!slide=4
  2. Cultures for health. Fermenting beans and legumes. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/fermenting-beans-legumes
  3. Guyenet S. Traditional preparation methods improve grains’ nutritive value. 4 May 2010 http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/05/traditional-preparation-methods-improve.html
  4. Nagel R. Living with phytic acid. The Weston A Price Foundation. 26 Mar 2010. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/living-with-phytic-acid/

Inflammatory food

Excess inflammation leads to autoimmune, inflammatory and age-related diseases as well as aging, but changing the way you eat can help

By Tamzyn Murphy Campbell
BSc, BSc Med(Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, RD

Excess inflammation leads to autoimmune, inflammatory and age-related diseases as well as aging, but changing the way you eat can help

By Tamzyn Murphy Campbell
BSc, BSc Med(Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, RD

To most of us “inflammation” – characterised by redness, heat, pain and swelling – is a dreaded word associated with a variety of ailments: joint pain, backache, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis (skin condition). But inflammation actually has an essential role to play. It’s our body’s first form of attack against infection or other foreign bodies. The wellknown inflammation related problems set in when inflammation spirals out of control and starts to attack the body’s own tissues – autoimmune disease – or when it goes on too long – thought to be one of the processes responsible for aging and related diseases. So, although inflammation is an important indicator of something being wrong, keeping it in check and preventing it from going overboard is fundamental to health – and what you eat can help.

BEAT THE BELLY

Belly fat releases inflammatory molecules which scientists blame for obesity-associated inflammatory diseases: insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease risk factors (high blood pressure and imbalanced blood fat and cholesterol levels). It’s also linked to lower levels of the hormone adiponectin, which may play a role in increased inflammation, heart disease risk and insulin resistance. Research indicates that women with a belly have more signs of inflammation than their male counterparts. Scientists have found that using diet to keep weight in check reduces inflammation and the markers of its associated diseases. So find a diet and exercise program that works for you, and stick to it to drop the kilos and keep inflammation free. Reducing stress and getting adequate sleep can also help keep the belly at bay.

INFLAMMATORY FOOD

Researchers have found that certain food promotes inflammation, while other food reduces it. Avoid the following to reduce inflammation:

  • Trans fats – found in processed baked goods (biscuits) and fast food fried in reused oil – raise inflammation-boosting molecules and heart disease risk
  • Refined carbohydrates and sugar increase inflammation, probably due to the combination of their low fibre, vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient and essential fatty acid content, as well as their penchant for swinging blood sugar and insulin levels. This boosts blood fat and free radicals, causing inflammatory molecule production, which in turn results in inflammation
  • Processed food is high in trans fats and refined carbohydrates and sugar. So they’re definitely a no-no
  • Excess omega-6 fats Most of us get too much inflammation-promoting omega-6 in our diet, from processed food and cooking oils, like sunflower oil. The omega-6 fat, linoleic acid (LA) is converted into arachidonic acid (AA), which is the major building block for making inflammation-promoting molecules (eicosanoids).

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOOD

This food helps reduce inflammation throughout the body and therefore also age-related inflammatory diseases (e.g. osteoarthritis) and the activation of aging genes

  • Unsaturated fats Monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and canola oils improve your blood fat profile to reduce inflammatory molecules and heart disease risk
  • Omega-3 fats found in oily fish (Norwegian salmon, snoek, sardines, anchovies), activate anti-inflammation genes. They’re also a building block for the production of anti-inflammatory molecules. And higher levels of omega-3 fats inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules made from omega-6 fats. Eat fatty fish at least three times per week or supplement with fish, or krill oil
  • Moderate alcohol has been linked to lower blood levels of inflammation-promoting molecules and reduced heart disease risk. Wine (1-2 glasses daily) is particularly anti-inflammatory, but beer and liquor have also been found to be beneficial
  • Antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables (especially brightly coloured ones), certain herbs and spices (cloves, oregano, rosemary, tumeric), green and rooibos tea, dark chocolate and red wine reduce free radical damage and inflammatory molecule production
  • Fibre exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by helping control blood sugar, insulin, fat and cholesterol levels, increasing adiponectin levels and reducing inflammatory molecule production. Fibre’s found in vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

References include

  1. Chung HY, Lee EK, et al. Molecular Inflammation as an Underlying Mechanism of the Aging Process and Age-related Diseases. JDR. Jul 2011;90(7):830-40
  2. Pou KM, Massaro JM, et al. Visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue volumes are cross-sectionally related to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. The Framingham Heart Study. Circulation. 2007;116:1234-41
  3. Giugliano D, Ceriello A, et al. The effects of diet on inflammation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006;48(4):677-85
  4. Lihn AS, Pedersen SB, Richelsen B. Adiponectin: action, regulation and association to insulin sensitivity. Obes Rev. Feb 2005;6(1):13-21
  5. Tajik N, Keshavarz SA, et al. Effect of diet-induced weight loss on inflammatory cytokines in obese women. J Endocrinol Invest. Jun 2012: Published online
  6. Calder PC. n−3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. Jun 2006;83(6):S1505-19
  7. ORAC Values. www.oracvalues.com. Jul 2012