Beans, beans the’re good for your heart…

August 8, 2012 BY: LISA

Do you remember this old rhyme from childhood? …the more you eat the more you f#rt!

A recent report from the Grains & Legume Nutrition Council has shed some more light on the subject.

Population studies have shown that people who eat legumes are less likely to develop heart disease and other intervention trials have shown that legumes can decrease cholesterol. Eating ½ to 2 cups of legumes per day may also lower disease risk by their positive effects on:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Beneficial effects on blood glucose levels
  • Helpful with weight management.

The Heart Foundation recommends including legumes in at least 2 meals each week.

Beans beans are definitely good for your heart, but what about the next bit?

It is well known that people don’t eat legumes for fear that they will increase gas and flatulence. A study in the US has shown that not everyone is affected this way and those that are can adjust after a few weeks of eating legumes regularly. The study involved eating ½ cup of legumes each day; half the people on the study reported increased gas but this went back to normal levels after 8 weeks.

The trick is to increase the amount of legumes in your food gradually and then keep them in the diet on a regular basis and your body will get used to them and excess gas production should not be a problem.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) then you may have a decreased tolerance to legumes but working with your dietitian will ensure that your level of tolerance can be determined; you may not have to avoid them altogether.

Some beany facts:

  • You can decrease gas production by soaking dried legumes before cooking and changing the water once or twice while they soak and cook in fresh water. Rinsing tinned beans prior to use/cooking can also decrease the amount of sodium as well as decrease gas production.
  • Legumes are a great sustainable source of protein. International studies indicate that legumes use the least land and have the lowest green house gas emissions when compared to other protein foods such as meat, eggs and dairy. Legume crops also improve soil quality through nitrogen fixation.
  • Legumes are super cheap and full of nutrients so if you want to save money try replacing some meat with kidney beans, lentils or chickpeas.
  • Why do you need to soak legumes? Soaking makes them easier to digest and for your body to absorb the nutrients. Split peas and lentils don’t need to be soaked, just boil them for 20 minutes or add them directly to the casserole/soup as it cooks.
  • Aim to include legumes twice per week but eating a variety of legumes 4 or more times per week is best for reducing chronic disease.

It’s really easy to include legumes into meals and the kids won’t even know! Last week I made meat balls with a tomato based sauce. When I was making them I added a tin of lentils into the lean mince and got a great tasting meal, with extra fibre and goodness, more meat balls so it lasted for two meals and everyone enjoyed them. Try adding in legumes to your next casserole, soup, curry or mince based dish

Check out some fantastic recipe ideas on the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council website

Enjoy!

Lisa Renn

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

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