Make room for legumes

Barbara Wilson

Including more peas and beans in our diet could have important benefits for our health.

As well as providing high quality protein, dietary fibre and a wealth of other nutrients, legumes also contain a type of carbohydrate known as resistant starch. This type of starch could act like additional dietary fibre in the diet and help keep our digestive systems healthy.

Instead of being digested in the small intestine, resistant starch travels to the large intestine where it ferments, producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has been associated with anti-cancer activity.

We are advised to eat 12-24 grams of dietary fibre every day, although some experts say this recommendation is already too low. Our Western diet typically provides just 13-18 grams of fibre per day so, if this resistant starch is as effective as dietary fibre, we can improve our digestive health by simply eating more foods with resistant starch. As legumes are rich sources of dietary fibre and resistant starch, these foods get a double thumbs up!

And it’s easy to increase our intake of peas and beans – here are just a few ideas!

· Toss beans or chick peas into salads
· Add kidney or black eye beans to chilli
· Stir extra beans into soups, casseroles and sauces
· Snack on hummus and crackers instead of cheese and crackers
· Add lentils instead to any dishes that require minced meat
· Spread a tortilla with re-fried beans before adding your fajita filling

Baked Beans

In an ovenproof casserole dish, heat a tsp olive oil over a medium heat. Cook a finely chopped onion for a few minutes, then add 1 or 2 crushed cloves of garlic. Stir in a tsp each of dried sage and oregano, 2 tsp tomato puree and 3-4 tbs red wine. Bring to the boil and then add a tin of tomatoes and a tin of green flageolet beans, drained and rinsed. Stir well, cover and transfer to a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees C. Cook for around an hour and serve as a side dish.

Makes 4 Servings.
Nutrition Information: 140 calories, 2g fat and 23g carbs (1½ Units).

Triple Bean Salad

Quickly blanch 250g fresh green beans and run under cold water to refresh. Mix these with a 400g tin of kidney beans and a 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, a finely sliced red onion, 2 tomatoes, cut into chunks, 50g crumbled Feta cheese and 10 olives, halved. Drizzle over a dessertspoon of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and mix well. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve with other salads and crusty bread.

Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition Information: 300 calories, 8g fat and 42g carbs (3 Units).

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