16. Legumes: Friends or Foe?

*pic above gives approx carb count for 100g of above legumes.

Peanuts,dhals and beans are legumes They were favourites of mine esp Dhal Gosht (for Friday or Saturday lunch) or Sugar/Butter Beans curry once a week or so in the past. I really loved eating them (and still do) at times. What I disliked though, were how they made me feel later… irritable bowel, wind or flatulence, bloat and giving off smelly gas!!! After starting LCHF  I learnt they were very high in carbs, so I had to reduce/eliminate them mostly from my diet. And guess what? My body’s really happy when I comply and omit eating them yet often gets into distress when i do!!!

OK, lets start by listing the foods that are classified as legumes:

lentils, beans, peanuts, soy beans and chickpeas.

Reasons for avoiding them:

Legumes in large amounts can lead to nutritional deficiencies. This is due to the phytic acid contained in these foods. Phytic acid binds to nutrients in the food such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, which prevents you from absorbing them.  This can lead to osteoporosis, anemia and fatigue. This is a real problem if you are eating mainly legumes instead of nutrient dense animal proteins and vegetables.

They can cause unpleasant digestive problems. This is  due to a type of carbohydrate called  galaco-ligosaccharides. These cabohydrate molecules are not absorbed properly in the small intestine and then end up in the large intestine, where they act as a food source to the bacteria that live there . The bacteria then digest these molecules which can cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as abdominal bloating , excess flatulence, abdominal pain, nausea,  diarrhoea or constipation. Are you having one of those “aha” moments with this one?

Legumes damage your intestinal wall. This damage (leaky gut syndrome) is caused by a protein in legumes called  lectins.  Your body struggles to digest these lectin proteins and they end up being transported intact through the intestinal lining and into your blood stream. The result is a damaged gut lining which then also lets through other proteins (which it is not supposed to do). These large and undigested proteins are easily mistaken by your body as being foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses or parasites. Our immune system then attacks these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them. This can then lead to autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, MS, Celiac, Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. This process can also cause allergies to other normally harmless foods such as chicken, beef and apples. Other problems associated with leaky gut are infertility, autism, depression, schizophrenia, vitiligo ( where a person loses pigmentation on their skin) and some forms of cancer such as Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Legumes can cause weight gain and metabolic issues such as insulin resistance. This is true especially for those people who are carb sensitive. Legumes are high in carbohydrates and eating these foods  frequently and in large amounts will quickly push your blood sugar and insulin levels up and lead to fat storage in your cells. So if you are a vegetarian/vegan who consumes legumes instead of animal protein and you are steadily putting on weight and can’t understand why, then this may be the reason.

Peanuts contain a yucky carcinogenic mold. Like other legumes, peanuts are problematic because they contain lectins and phytic acid, but peanuts also contain  aflotoxins which is a carcinogen.  Aflotoxins are produced by a mold that grows on peanuts (and corn by the way). This mold thrives on crops stored in warm, humid places and is impossible to eliminate completely.  Research has linked long-term consumption of aflotoxins with risk for diseases like cancer and hepatitis B.  Children are particularly affected by aflatoxin exposure, which can lead to stunted growth and delayed development. Maybe now is the time to switch to almond or macadamia nut butter!

Consumption of soya can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body. These hormonal imbalances are caused by phytoestrogens in the soy bean. Men can develop breasts and fat deposits on the hips.Women can suffer from impaired fertility and menstrual problems. Phytoestrogens have also been linked to breast cancer and disruption of normal thyroid function.  Soy contains the highest levels of phytic acid of any grain or legume. They also contain high levels of aluminium which is toxic to the nervous system and kidneys and recent studies suggest a link between soy consumption and kidney stones. At this point I would say, rather eat a juicy 100% beef burger (sans the bun) than a vegetarian-friendly pseudo burger patty made from TVP (texturised vegetable protein made from soya). Ditch the soya milk lattes and opt for a bulletproof coffeeinstead.

If after reading this, you still want to include legumes in your diet, then I would just encourage you to look into soaking, sprouting, long cooking and fermenting your legumes. These traditional methods of preparation and cooking won’t turn lentils or beans into a magical health food, but they can help reduce their more dangerous aspects.

If you have chosen to eliminate all animal protein such as meat, fish and eggs from your diet and are replacing it with legumes as a staple part of your diet because you believe it is the “healthier” alternative , then I encourage you to fully research your decision before you potentially make yourself sick.

I don’t believe that indulging occasionally in some creamy humus or beans in your soup would be too problematic for most people but everyone’s tolerance levels are different, so keep that in mind. If you don’t feel so good afterwards then avoid them next time.

I hope you have been able to take in all of the above – I know it is quite a lot to digest!


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