Beans are our best friends

Article written by Sara Silva, founder of the project No Footprint Nomads.

Beans are pulses. Pulses are plants of the Fabaceae family. In addition to the various qualities of beans, pulses include fava beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, and lupins.

Peanuts and soy are also part of this food group but are distinguished by being rich in fat.

Pulses are plants rich in nutrients. They are great sources of vegetable protein and therefore replace meat in a vegetarian diet. Moreover, they contain minerals, vitamins, and fiber.

They are practically free of saturated fat, do not contain cholesterol, and keep blood sugar levels stable due to their low glycemic index, which makes them a healthy alternative for those who have diabetes or hypertension. In fact, replacing red meat with pulses improves blood fat levels, according to a scientific analysis from several studies.

The benefits of pulses are not limited to their nutritional value. Despite being less and less cultivated in Europe, this group of plants is beneficial for agriculture and the environment.

Pulses return nitrogen to the soil, an essential nutrient for the growth of other plants. When included in a rotational cropping system, legumes significantly reduce nitric oxide emissions and the amount of chemical fertilizer that is needed in agriculture.

Bearing in mind that nitric oxide is a polluting gas that destroys the ozone layer and is harmful to human health, and that the excessive use of chemical fertilizers contaminates water sources and contributes to the carbon footprint, the cultivation of pulses is beneficial both for the environment and for people. In fact, it takes 4 times less water to produce 1 kilo of legumes compared to the same amount of beef.

How to get the best out of your pulses!

It is possible to find fresh, dried, or canned pulses. I like to buy them dry and cook them at home. The advantage of dried legumes is that they can be stored for long periods of time and keep their nutritional value and their taste practically intact.

Pulses should be soaked (if dried) between 4 to 8 hours and cooked before being consumed to improve flavor and digestibility. They contain substances called phytates that reduce the absorption of other beneficial nutrients. When soaked, the phytate content substantially reduces.

A practical tip is to soak pulses overnight, discard the soaking water, and cook them in a pressure cooker in the morning. If you're in a hurry, you can soak them in hot water for a few hours to speed up the process.

To increase the nutritional benefits of pulses, they should be consumed together with a cereal (rice, wheat, quinoa, for example) and a source of vitamin C (orange, lemon, for example). Consuming pulses with coffee or tea should be avoided because this combination reduces the body's ability to absorb iron and other minerals.

References:

Real, H., Barbosa, M., & Pimenta, P. (2016). Legume to legume, fill your health plate [N ° 40]. Portuguese Association of Nutritionists. Retrieved on 22, August, 2020 from https://www.apn.org.pt/documentos/ebooks/E-book_leguminosas_2.pdf

F. (2016). Health Benefits of Pulses (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)). Retrieved on 22, August, 2020 from http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5388e.pdf

Polak, R., Phillips, E. M., & Campbell, A. (2015). Vegetables: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical Diabetes, 33 (4), 198-205. doi: 10.2337 / diaclin.33.4.198

Reckling, M., Bergkvist, G., Watson, C. A., Stoddard, F. L., Zander, P. M., Walker, R. L. Bachinger, J. (2016). Trade-Offs between Economic and Environmental Impacts of Introducing Vegetables into Cropping Systems. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7. doi: 10.3389 / fpls.2016.00669

F. (2016). Nutritional Benefits of Pulses (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)). Retrieved on 22, August, 2020 from http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5384e.pdf

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