Whole grains, legumes, and beans are essential components of a healthy diet. They are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
Beans are also a great substitute for animal proteins. That is why they are also referred to as ‘poor man’s meat.’
Most of us tend to stick to the common healthy grains that we know about like brown rice and by consuming whole grain bread. What everyone needs to realize is that there are many different grains, all packed with various benefits.
Consuming whole grains and not their processed variants is important. Same is the case with legumes and beans; avoid the ones that are canned and processed. These lack the nutritional value that unprocessed ones maintain.
Beans, Grains, And Legumes
Read on to find out which grains, legumes, and beans you are missing out on which are great for you!
1. Soybeans (Non-GMO only!)
These are also called edamame and are extremely popular in Asia. They are incredibly high in proteins; each cup contains about 31.32 grams of protein. This makes them a great meat substitute for vegetarians.
A great benefit of soybeans are the high levels of antioxidants they contain. Isoflavones are a type of antioxidants that are present in soybeans. These are helpful in fighting cancer as well.
Soybeans are said to prevent stomach and gastrointestinal cancers in certain researches as well.
Soybeans also have multiple benefits for hair and skin. They are an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Zinc in soybeans is great for hair and skin. The phytoestrogens present also help prevent wrinkles and aging of the skin.
They are also rich in vitamin E which strengthens nails and makes hair shiny.
Soybeans are also said to offer protection from cardiovascular diseases. They are rich in Omega 3 Fatty acids. They also increase the levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and decrease the levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). This helps prevent the deposits of cholesterol on the vessels of the heart.
Soybeans help build and strengthen bones and teeth. This is because they are a rich source of calcium.
Iron is essential in the form of hemoglobin. It helps carry and distribute oxygen throughout the body. Soy is an excellent source of iron.
These are also known as garbanzo beans. Chickpeas are a rich source of fiber and protein.
They are also great in aiding weight management and help in improving digestion.
Chickpeas are high in both protein and fiber. They have been beneficial for people trying to lose weight. The high protein and fiber helps make an individual feel fuller and gives them greater control over their appetite.
Proteins are also said to regulate levels of hormones that can help reduce hunger. When appetite is decreased, there are lesser calories consumed per meal. This leads to a calorie deficit that is essential for weight loss.
They are a great source of non-animal protein. Chickpeas contain all essential amino acids apart from methionine. Hence, they can’t be used as a singular source of protein.
Chickpeas can also help maintain blood sugar levels. They have a low glycemic index. What this means is that they do not cause a high increase in blood sugar levels after digestion. Foods with a low glycemic index have proven to promote blood sugar management.
As chickpeas are high in fiber, they are excellent for the bowel movement. The fiber in chickpeas in mostly soluble, it forms a gel-like substance once it blends with water. Soluble fiber helps the proliferation of good gut bacteria. This leads to reduced risk of diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Some forms of cancer can also be prevented by incorporating chickpeas in your diet. Consuming chickpeas causes the body to produce a fatty acid called butyrate. This fatty acid reduces inflammation in the colon and can possibly decrease the risk of colon cancer.
3. Kidney Beans
They are a great source of protein. Kidney beans should be taken well cooked because raw or improperly cooked kidney beans can be toxic.
Kidney beans are also a great source of fiber. However, unlike chickpeas, they contain insoluble fiber, like alpha-galactosidases. This may lead to diarrhea and flatulence in some people.
Kidney beans have a variety of nutrients. These include folic acid, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin K1, and phosphorus.
Folic acid is responsible for maintaining healthy cells, and for the formation of new ones. Its deficiency can lead to a decrease in the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, a condition known as anemia. Folic acid is important for pregnant women and those wishing to conceive.
Iron is needed to make hemoglobin and to prevent anemias.
Magnesium is good for the bones, and it also relieves anxiety. It stimulates calcium reabsorption and helps build and strengthen bones.
Vitamin K is important for producing factors that help in clotting blood.
Phosphorus also contributes to bone growth and strengthening. It also helps in the control and repair of cell membranes and nucleic acids.
There are anti-nutrients in kidney beans that are called starch blockers. These are a kind of proteins that can impair or delay the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. They can be helpful for weight loss. Be careful not to over-cook the beans as high temperatures destroy the starch blockers.
These are edible seeds from the legume family. They can be eaten peeled or unpeeled and come in a variety of colors. Each lentil has its own unique benefits. This is because each has its own set of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Lentils are an inexpensive way to fulfill a lot of nutritional requirements. Phytochemicals present in lentils are great for protection against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
Polyphenols are phytochemicals that lentils are extremely rich in. Procyanidin and flavanols are two polyphenols present in abundance in lentils. They are protective of the brain and spinal cord. They have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Polyphenols also do not lose their beneficial properties after being cooked.
As lentils are a rich source of folic acid, they also help prevent accumulations of high levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine, when present in high concentrations, is damaging for the heart. Therefore, lentils can play a role in the protection of the heart.
Packed with a variety of nutrients, a 100 calories serving of rye provides more nutritional value than any other grain. It also contains 50% of the recommended daily allowance of iron.
Rye has both health uses and commercial uses. It has used such in making bread, whiskey, vodka and animal fodder.
As rye is packed with fiber, it helps in weight loss and reducing cholesterol levels. It is especially beneficial for losing belly fat as it suppresses hunger for a long time after meals. It is also quite low in calories compared to the amount of fiber it contains. Its high fiber content also helps prevent the formation of gallstones. The fiber leads to the decreased production of certain bile salts.
It also boosts metabolism which helps in weight loss. Rye also contains less gluten than wheat.
Rye also helps build bones and teeth due to high levels of magnesium and calcium.
Some studies have shown that rye consumption in younger children helps prevent asthma. It also has shown some evidence in the prevention of cancer. It may offer protection against colorectal, breast and prostate cancers.
Oats are gluten free, and they are one of the healthiest grains to eat. They are available in whole, rolled and steel cut forms. Oats are commonly used as breakfast foods to make porridge.
They are a great source of fiber, including Beta Glucan. Beta glucan (β-glucan) is a soluble fiber which is gaining popularity rapidly. This is because of its role in decreasing insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, and dyslipidemia. It also reduces LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Oats are extremely rich in antioxidants. There are antioxidants called avenanthramides that are exclusively present in oats. Avenanthramides have shown to help lower blood pressure levels. They do this by increasing the production of nitric oxide. The gas, nitric oxide is a very strong vasodilator. It dilates the blood vessels and hence decreases the blood pressure.
Avenanthramides present in oats are also known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects.
Barley is another great grain to incorporate into your diet. Like oats, barley is also extremely enriched with fiber and nutrients.
One of the nutrients that barely has that the other grains don’t is selenium. Selenium is extremely good for the skin. It helps preserve the elasticity of the skin and protects it from damage induced by UV rays and free radicals.
Selenium also helps maintain the functioning of the pancreas, cardiovascular, and immune system. Its deficiency may lead to cancers of the colon, liver, skin, prostate, breast, and stomach.
Barley is rich in Vitamin C and beta glucan, both of which contribute to making your immune system stronger. The stronger your immune system is, the lesser you tend to fall sick.
Other nutrients in barley include niacin, copper, thiamine. Copper is important for maintaining cognitive function and provides support to the nervous system. Thiamine allows the body to utilize carbohydrates to release energy
It also plays a significant role in nerve, heart and muscle functioning. Niacin improves cardiovascular health and decreases the cholesterol levels of the body.
Drinking barley water daily in pregnancy can also help prevent morning sickness.
Quinoa is gluten free and has a significant nutritional value, especially for vegetarians. You must be wondering why is that so? The reason is that it has all nine essential amino acids. It’s one of the rare plant sources of protein that contains all the essential amino acids.
An interesting fact about quinoa is that NASA scientists have been considering growing it in space. Why? Because Quinoa is not only easy to grow and use but is also packed with nutrients.
Quinoa is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids as well. Two flavonoids that Quinoa is well known for are quercetin and kaempferol. The quantity of quercetin in quinoa is even higher than that in foods known for being rich in quercetin,e.g., raspberries. These flavonoids have been shown to produce anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and anti-cancer effects.
It is also ideal for those who are allergic to gluten. Replacing quinoa with typical gluten-free ingredients such as refined tapioca, potato, corn, and rice flour increases the nutrient and antioxidant value of the meal.
Like its counterparts, millet also provides several benefits. It promotes digestion, prevents asthma, decreases LDL cholesterol. It also helps in preventing diabetes and cancer.
Asthma patients usually avoid wheat as it could trigger an allergy. However, millet is beneficial for asthma patients. There are studies that millet is useful for patients with asthma and can help prevent it.
Millet is also rich in catechins like Quercetin. These help in the detoxification of the body. They get rid of the toxins that accumulate in the body and preserve the healthy functioning of the liver and kidney.
It is also a rich source of phosphorus. Phosphorus helps in forming the matrix of the bone, hence strengthening it. It is also a part of cell membranes and the central nervous system.
10. Brown Rice
Brown rice is less processed than white rice. It only has its hull removed. It contains the bran and germ which is rich in nutrients.
Some people tend to consider white and brown rice as the same because they have similar calories. This is not true. Brown rice is rich in nutrients, unlike white rice.
It contains a high amount of manganese, and just one cup fulfills most of the daily allowance. Manganese is responsible for bone development, wound healing, muscle contraction, nerve function as well as blood sugar regulation.
Brown rice is also rich in fiber, zinc, selenium, thiamin (B1), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6),
pantothenic acid (B5), iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper
Various beans, legumes, and grains have high nutritional values. While most people focus on adding vegetables to their diet, legumes and beans are often ignored. Moreover, our choice of grains is also poor – in most cases. We hope you have learned about some nutritional resources from this blog post.