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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/

Diets that do and diets that don’t: Part 2 – The Paleo Diet

By Tamzyn Murphy

BSc Med(Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, RD

 

The Paleo diet, founded by researcher Loren Cordain (PhD), is based on what our caveman ancestors ate. It includes only the foods we’ve eaten for most of human history; which we’ve evolved to eat. Like Atkins, Paleo is a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. You’re allowed as much meat, fish, poultry, eggs, natural fat (e.g. butter, olive oil, avocado) and non-starchy vegetables as you like. Unlike Atkins, Paleo allows any other foods that our caveman ancestors ate, like any root vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit.  We only became dependent on farmed foods, like grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and dairy, relatively recently – less than 500 generations ago – with the advent of agriculture. So our genes haven’t had much time to adapt to problem compounds in these foods, theoretically causing inflammation and weight gain.

Indeed, grains and legumes contain anti-nutrients (like lectin and gluten) which interfere with nutrient absorption, irritate intestinal lining (promoting leaky gut) and yield other toxic effects. Cereal grains, particularly wheat, are the worst.[i] So there’s a case to be made for limiting or even eliminating them. But legumes’ anti-nutrients are largely inactivated by cooking at high temperatures, which makes them relatively safe[ii]. Plus legumes contain numerous beneficial compounds.[iii] They’re also are an important protein source – particularly important for vegetarians, vegans and the poor; not to mention ethical and environment-friendly meat-replacements. There’s no evidence that legumes increase weight gain. Research shows that dairy doesn’t have inflammatory[iv] or weight promoting effects[v]. In fact it may do the opposite.

So, the theory behind Paleo is sound – eat whole, unprocessed food as much as possible. But including moderate amounts of dairy and legumes may offer more benefits than risks. Paleo loses points on the expense-front, and due to the lack of dairy you might want to supplement with calcium and vitamin D, unless you’re getting plenty of other calcium rich foods and enough sunshine.

 

References

[i] Cordain L. Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double Edged Sword. Simopoulos AP (ed): Evolutionary Aspects of Nutrition and Health.Diet, Exercise, Genetics and Chronic Disease. World Rev Nutr Diet. Basel, Karger, 1999;84:19-73

[ii] Pusztai A, Grant G. Assessment of lectin inactivation by heat and digestion. Methods Mol Med. 1998;9:505-14 

[iii] Bouchenak M, Lamri-Senhadji M. Nutritional quality of legumes, and their role in cardiometabolic risk prevention: a review. J Med Food. 2013 Mar;16(3):185-98 

[iv] Labonté MÈ, Couture P, et al. Impact of dairy products on biomarkers of inflammation: a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies in overweight and obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):706-17 

[v] Abargouei AS, Janghorbani M,  et al. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Dec;36(12):1485-93