Make Room for the Legume
by Sandra Tonn, RHN
Source: Health Action Magazine Winter2006/2007
This special category of vegetables (legumes grow in a pod) are considered one of nature's nearperfect power foods because of their abundance in, and good balance of, nutrients. Legumes include beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils. They are a rich source of protein, iron, calcium, zinc, B vitamins and fibre. Legumes, which are approximately 70 per cent complex carbohydrates, are known to lower cholesterol levels significantly, control insulin and blood sugar, lower blood pressure, alleviate hemorrhoids and bowel disorders, prevent colon disorders, and inhibit cancer. It's a wonder the tasty legume isn't a prized part of our diets.
Before cooking, soak one part legumes in four parts water for 12 hours or overnight. This traditional preparation method makes them easier to digest. Soaking also helps to begin the breakdown of the phytic acid that's found in their skins. This organic acid binds with minerals in the digestive tract, which means the valuable minerals are excreted in waste instead of absorbed into the body. Minerals are extremely important to the health and function of the body.
Throw away the soaking water, and use fresh water to cook them in. To cook, cover the legumes with water and add another inch of water to the pot. Bring them to a boil. With a large spoon, remove and discard the foam that forms on the water. Think of this foam as the gas that has come to be associated with beans. By removing the foam, you remove digestive discomfort. Once legumes have boiled and you've removed the "gas," reduce to a simmer (so water is gently bubbling) and cook for about one hour, or until soft. Adding a bit of fennel or cumin during cooking will also aid digestibility.
If legumes are a new item on your menu, don't be surprised if it takes a few months for your digestive system to get used to them. Be sure to follow the soaking and cooking directions and then chew well. Buying dry beans in bulk is extremely affordable. When stored in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dry place, they will last for up to a year.
Legumes are extremely versatile and can be used in hundreds of ways including baked, in soups, casseroles, stews, vegetarian patties and burgers, salads and more. Beans and lentils are a main food staple in many parts of the world. Mexican, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures consume legumes on a daily basis in a variety of forms. The traditional combination of legumes with rice provides a nicely balanced meal of protein and nutrients.
Sandra Tonn is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, freelance health writer and speaker, whole food nutrition teacher and certified hatha yoga instructor based in Powell River, BC. www.sandratonn.com
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