What’s Wrong with Beans and Legumes: 4 Things to Know
Beans and legumes are heralded as great vegetarian sources of protein, but their benefits are compromised by several inherent factors.
All beans and legumes are the seeds of their mother plant so they present the same problems as cereals and grains:
- they’re a cheap source of carbohydrate
- they contain high levels of phytates which are anti-nutrients and
- they contain high levels of prolamins which damage the lining of the intestine.
On top of these, there are 4 other little-known issues which impact upon their nutrtional value, the health of our gut (and thus the strength of our immune system), and the balance of our sex hormones. Beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soy… they’re all legumes. But I like to say “beans and legumes” for the same reason that I say “cereals and grains”: it helps us conceptualise what we’re talking about.
1. Beans and Legumes: High Carbohydrate, Low Nutrition
The perceived nutritional content of beans and legumes is over-evaluated. As with cereals, they contain high amounts of phytates. Phytates are anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients block the absorption of minerals and vitamins, which means that much of the perceived nutritional value of beans and legumes isn’t bioavailable.
But aside from that, there’s simply no comparison with regards to the density of nutrition found in animal sourced protein. For example:
- 1 cup of beans = 10g carbohydrate, 6g protein
- 1 cup chicken breast = 0g carbohydrate, 35g protein
To get the same amount of protein from legumes as you would from the chicken, you need to consume 58g of carbohydrate, and receive the anti-nutrients as a bonus.
Since beans and legumes aren’t a complete source of protein, you’ll need to add other varieties of protein, such as cereals – which means even more carbohydrate.
2. Beans, Legumes and the FODMAPs
Beans, beans, good for the heart. Beans, beans, they make you fart. The more you fart, the better you feel. Beans, beans, with every meal!
Was this rhyme a part of your childhood? Or was it just popular in my family?
Everyone knows that beans and legumes create digestive gas. The reason for this is they’re rich in galactans. Galactans are a form of FODMAP. Fodmaps are fermentable oligasaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. They’re basically carbohydrates (sugars) that ferment in the intestine. Excess gas is a by-product of the fermentation.
Now, we can laugh as long as we want, but the sad truth remains: excess FODMAPs contribute to dysbiosis of the intestine. Dysbiosis occurs when bacteria in the intestine become unbalanced, in particular, when the “bad” bacteria reproduce much more than the “good” bacteria. In the best case scenario, the dysbiosis is simply uncomfortable and anti-social: bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea. At its worst, it causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
3. Beans and Legumes contain Saponin
The third problem with beans and legumes is that they contain saponin. Saponins are anti-nutrients that foam like soap when soaked in water. They’re a defense mecchanism of plants against fungi and microbes. All beans and legumes contain saponins, as well as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, chia and linseed.
Saponins are soluble in water. When they interact with cells, they create pores on the surface of cells and permeate the membranes. They do this not only on cells in the intestine, but on any cell that they manage to connect with, having entered the bloodstream through a Leaky Gut. They impair the ability of red blood cells to process oxygen.
Saponins irritate the immune system to such an extent that they’re used in vaccine research.
Those who suffer from the acute effects of Leaky Gut should exclude all foods that contain saponins.
Cooking doesn’t destroy saponins, but fermentation does. So, fermented soy products such as tempeh, miso and soy sauce are saponin free.
4. Soy and Estrogen
Along with all those aforementioned issues, soy beans have a special problem all of their own. Soy contains phytoestrogens. Estrogen is the female reproductive hormone. Phytoestrogens are recognized by the human body – both male and female – as that sex hormone. Depending on the type of phytoestrogen, they’ll either stimulate or block the estrogen receptors in the body.
That’s right: soy messes with your sex hormones.
During the Paleo Reset 31, participants are encouraged to not consume beans and legumes for 31 days, and this contributes in no small way to the remarkable results with regards digestive distress. After the Reset, some people like to experiment with legumes in small doses. It’s probably not a good idea to eat them every day, but every now and again, they’re certainly not the worst thing you can eat. And sometimes, when eaten in small doses and infrequently, their particular nutritional factors may well outweigh the negatives. We’ll look at that in a separate post.
Health, Freedom, Life. Download Now your Free E-book and Guide to the Paleo Reset 31, “Health is Easy.”
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