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The Skinny on Legumes, Seeds and Nuts
Beans, peas and lentels are in the legume family and are excellent food choices. Legumes are healthy complex carbohydrates, full of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. They are a good source of protein, although they do not have all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that the body needs, so supplement your legumes with a variety of foods to get the complete protein your body needs.
Beans have also been shown to help lower the risk of Diabetes and heart disease. Eating a cup of cooked beans a day can lower your total cholesterol by up to 10% in 6 weeks, which decreases your risk of heart disease by 20%. The phytonutrients in beans also help lower the risk of cancer.
Canned beans will give you the much of the same benefits as dried beans, so if you don’t like to cook your beans from scratch, canned beans are a good alternative.
Some people avoid beans because of the gas and bloating that beans cause. This can be avoided in several ways. First always soak your dried beans overnight, and then discard that water and replace it with fresh water before you cook the beans. If beans still cause you problems, you might try gradually increasing the amount of beans you eat over several week, to help your body adapt. You could also try the product “Beano” found in most stores. It works well for most people.
Seeds and nuts can also be an important source of healthy fiber, plus they are often satisfying and help control the appetite. Nuts and seeds are full of healthy unprocessed monosaturated fats as well.
You might also seriously consider adding bean and seed sprouts to your diet, if you don’t eat them already. The nutritional content of sprouts is many times greater than the original seed or bean it sprouted from. Sprouts have the highest concentration of nutrition per calorie than any food. They are also known for their high enzyme activity, which is never surpassed in any other stage of plant growth.
Beans are almost always a good food choice, but one exception to this is soybeans. Although soy is a popular “healthy” additive to food today, originally the Chinese did not eat soybeans as they did other beans because they knew that soybeans contained harmful substances. Soybeans contain powerful enzyme inhibitors which block the action of the enzymes the body needs for protein digestion. Even cooking them does not get rid of these substances, which cause gas and bloating, as well as other very serious problems in the body, like cancer and blood clots.
The only soy products that do not cause these health problems are the traditional fermented soy products, such as tempeh, natto, miso and shoyu (tamari or soy sauce,) since the lengthy fermentation process seems to get rid of most of the harmful substances, and allow the soy to be easily digested. All other soy products should be avoided, and definitely not used as a replacement for meat in the diet.
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