Yesterday, a friend forwarded me a fantastic article by Michael Coren of the Washington Post about Why Americans should eat lentils every day. At the same time, the energetic Dr. Greger has produced numerous articles and videos about the virtues of lentils (and their legume cousins beans, peas and chickpeas), including this blog about the anti-inflamatory effects of fiber. In it, he points out that, of all foods, the real fiber superstars are legumes. Besides that, you probably know dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are also high in protein, vitamins and minerals. But what does that really mean for health? Read on to find out. And by the way, it is not only your health we are talking about!
But first a little history. Coren reports that pulses (beans and lentils) are “older than agriculture” and that “archaeological evidence suggests humans collected wild varieties more than 13,000 years ago”. They were buried with pharaohs in ancient Egypt and kept the Roman soldiers fed. Other references put legume consumption even earlier, over 20,000 years ago.
So humans have evolved eating legumes, and for good reason! In this article, Dr. Greger outlines the various scientifically controlled studies of people who eat beans. And what did they find? People who eat beans have significantly less heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less peripheral artery disease (clogged arteries). Not only that, legumes are packed with antioxidants and consumption of beans is associated with “beneficial effects on excess body weight, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress”.
Despite a relatively high carbohydrate content, beans and lentils have an extremely low glycemic index. That means they do not increase blood glucose nearly as much as other foods with similar carbohydrate content. They even reduce the glycemic index of other foods eaten at the same time! (We have found this to be true in our tests with Yumbini too!) Not only that, legumes exhibit a so-called “second meal” effect, where they actually reduce the glycemic spike of foods eaten several hours later! They also slow “stomach empying”, meaning you stay full longer.
Beans can even slow down your heart rate! Studies showed bean consumption reduced heart rate in cardiac patients by the same amount as a regimen of exercise. Eating the beans also improved blood sugar control in diabetics!
Looking at your gut bacteria, studies found that eating beans regularly can improve the makeup of a person’s intestinal microbiome in only a few weeks! Moreover, these miraculous effects of legumes cannot be explained by their antioxidant or fiber content alone. You get the biggest effect by eating the super nutrition package of beans and lentils in their whole form. As a matter of fact, scientists studying the relationship between lifespan and foods worldwide, have found that only one is statistically significant: legumes. Bean eaters simply live longer. This is illustrated in the US population by the fact that, despite statistically lower socioeconomic status and inferior healthcare, Hispanics live longer than any other ethnic group! Asians (who consume a lot of soybeans) also live longer.
But wait, there’s more: legumes are not just good for YOU, they are good for the planet too! Climate Advice Colmunist Coren reports that while most crops deplete soil over time, legumes help rebuild it. They pull nitrogen from the air and deposit it underground, reducing or eliminating the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. What’s more, lentils and other beans generally need no irrigation. Beans and lentils have the lowest carbon footprint of any protein source. And by fixing nitrogen in the soil, they reduce the carbon footprint of other crops!
So there you have it folks. One simple, yummy thing you can do to improve your own health and that of the planet: eat beans and lentils! (And with Yumbini, they are only 6 minutes away!)