Recently there’s been more focus on eating foods that are low on the glycemic scale, foods that don’t cause rapid rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. Eating a fiber-rich, low-glycemic diet is important for people with type 2 diabetes, but even people without blood sugar problems can benefit.
Since insulin is a hormone that promotes fat storage, keeping insulin levels under control by eating foods that don’t cause a rapid glycemic response controls appetite and keeps your body from going into “fat storage” mode. There’s another drawback to spikes in blood sugar. When blood sugar levels rise rapidly, they fall fast, triggering hunger. That’s not a good thing if you’re trying to trim your waistline.
Low Glycemic Foods: A New Reason to Say “Yes” to Legumes
Whole foods and foods that are naturally high in fiber help to prevent rapid fluctuations in blood sugar level and insulin levels. These include fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, most dairy foods, protein sources, and nuts – but there’s one food that many people fail to add to their diet that keeps blood sugar stable and reduces the body’s tendency to store fat – legumes. Have you had your bowl of beans or lentils lately?
A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at the effect of legumes, like beans and lentils, on blood sugar levels. Over 120 participants took part in this study. Both groups ate a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. The only difference was one group ate whole-wheat products, a good source of insoluble fiber, while the other enjoyed a cup of legumes each day.
Both diets had benefits for controlling blood sugar, as measured by hemoglobin A1C levels, but the group that ate a cup of legumes daily showed greater improvement in blood sugar parameters. There was another “fringe benefit” of eating legumes in this study – the participants that ate legumes over the course of the three-month study experienced a drop in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This bodes well for heart disease risk.
Rediscovering the Health Benefits of Legumes
Legumes like beans and lentils are naturally high in fiber and are low-glycemic. Plus, the fiber they contain is primarily soluble fiber, the kind that lowers blood lipid levels and reduces the risk of heart disease. There are other surprising facts about beans. Ever wonder what makes black beans black? It’s anthocyanins, natural antioxidants that reduce inflammation and are important for brain health. Black beans and kidney beans rank high on the antioxidant scale, right up there with blueberries.
Lentils are another legume that isn’t as popular as they should be. Fortunately, health-conscious people are starting to recognize their health benefits. Lentils are one of the best vegetarian sources of protein, although they lack two essential amino acids, isoleucine, and lysine, which are found in whole grain foods. That’s why vegetarians often eat lentils with a whole-grain like brown rice or quinoa. They only have 200 calories per cup and are quite satiating.
Why Not Add More Beans and Lentils to Your Diet?
Getting the health benefits of legumes is as simple as adding a cup a day of beans or lentils to your diet. Legumes of all types are inexpensive when you buy them bulk. Simply wash them and put them in a slow cooker to cook for five or six hours. If you pre-soak them in water, they’ll be ready in about four hours. You can add beans and lentils to soup, or use them to make vegetarian chili. Need more ideas?
Skip the hamburger and make a bean burger or a lentil loaf in place of meatloaf. Sprinkle kidney beans on salads or make a five-bean salad to serve as a side-dish. How about pureeing your favorite beans and turning them into a tasty dip – or eat them as a side dish with salsa? You can add black beans to your morning omelet, along with a little salsa, of course. You’ll find dozens of recipes for dishes made with beans and lentils online.
The Bottom Line?
Legumes like beans and lentils are fiber-rich food with multiple benefits – and will help keep your weight under control by reducing appetite and preventing blood sugar and insulin spikes. They’re an ideal food if you have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Rediscover the health benefits of a bowl of beans or lentils.
Nutraingredients.com. “Legume Consumption Helps Glycemic Control and Lowers Heart Risk: Study”
Nutraingredients.com. “Black Beans High in Antioxidant Ratings”