Beans and peas and soy and peanuts. What’s the problem? I’ve been doing a little research lately. I will do my best to explain it the way that I understand it.
Legumes are from a plant family that includes a variety of beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, soybeans, green beans, and peanuts. On a sidenote, coffee, cocoa, and vanilla are not included in this family. Often times, legumes are labeled as a healthy option due to their fiber, vitamin, mineral, and protein content. However, when you take a closer look, A. Legumes are much higher in the carbohydrate department than protein. 2. When it comes to protein, you are far better off getting protein from meat, seafood, and eggs. C. As far as micronutrients and fiber, your fruit and vegetables trump legumes.
When it comes to legumes, there are really 2 main issues with them: Phytic Acid and lectin.
Phytic Acid binds to nutrients, preventing absorption. This essentially makes them inaccessible to our bodies. In my research, I found that really, it depends on the amount that you consume. It has been debated that it’s ok with smaller amounts. Personally, I have decided that a snack of sugar snap peas or a small side of green beans is ok, but that’s my personal opinion. Strict Paleo says no.
Legumes are a big carbohydrate source. With carbohydrate comes sugar. 1. Beans have a higher glycemic load which Paleo purists try to steer clear of. B. Some of the carbs are tough to digest which may cause unpleasant digestive problems for some people. While this may not be a reason for everyone to avoid them, it’s definitely something to be mindful of…especially if you have IBS or similar digestive problems.
Lectin proteins are found in all sorts of food, with levels being especially high in legumes, grain, and dairy. Lectin is tough to digest. Once in the gut, the still mostly intact proteins have the potential to cross the lining and into the bloodstream. This is when we see an immune response which triggers systemic inflammation (see: leaky gut). People react differently to lectin. If you eat some baked beans, you may be just fine, while your neighbor over there may experience cramping, bloating, gas, and so on and so forth. Same food, same amount, different reactions.
I just wanted to take the time to elaborate a little more on GI distress. Since choosing to adopt the clean eating lifestyle, I have taken an unofficial survey of other people who have also done the same. I have had multiple discussions with a handful of people who have also decided to switch to clean food. In our dialogue, I have found that the majority of them have noticed a significant difference in the way that they feel. Sure, they have more energy, clearer skin, weight loss, etc. But the main thing that they (we) have noticed is less GI discomfort. When you start out maybe doing a strict 30 day challenge, after those 3o days, you may not notice a huge difference in the way that you feel. It’s when you slowly start adding the grains, the dairy, the legumes back into your diet that you see the difference. For the majority of people, they notice bloating, cramps, gas, and heartburn. Just the other week, I sampled a little something at the fire station that had flour and sugars in it. Later that night, I began to have some gnarly stomach cramps, bloating, and heartburn. I had it for the rest of the evening. Before Paleo, I experienced these symptoms fairly regularly, but since making the switch to cleaner eating, I haven’t had any of these symptoms. Cheats like that help me to remember why I choose to be Paleo.
I know of a few people who follow my blog who choose to be vegetarian for various reasons. How does one get protein if meat, seafood, AND legumes are removed? Keep in mind, I write these “Paleo science” blogs from the strict Paleo point of view. I’m just here to educate. I believe that with any type of eating, you need to be smart with it. You need to be mindful of the vitamins and mineral that you’re lacking and find other ways to get them into your diet, whether your Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, whatever. I promote clean eating. How you modify that is up to you. Just be smart about it.
Again, everyone is different. You may feel just fine eating legumes. Strict Paleo says no, but people modify their Paleo in all sorts of ways. You need to experiment and see how legumes affect the way that you feel and how you look, act, think, what have you. As always, comments are welcome. I don’t know all of the answers, but I will do my best to figure it out. I am very much still learning.