Research Update: Legumes and Diabetes

A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition looked at data from the PREDIMED study, which featured over 3,000 subjects with elevated risk for heart disease, but without type 2 diabetes. The study found that after 4 years, participants with the highest intake of legumes had a 35% reduction in risk for diabetes. The study was led by Jordi Salas-Salvadó from Rovira i Virgili University, University Hospital of Sant Joan de Reus, and Institute of Health Carlos III in Spain. Salas-Salvadó explained that substituting legumes, especially lentils, for other high-carbohydrate or high-fiber foods was linked with this reduction, though more research is needed to solidify the results.

In this prospective study, Salas-Salvadó and his team reviewed diet histories of diabetes-free subjects, both at the outset of the study and then annually for four years. Using regression models to estimate hazard ratios and confidence intervals, incidence of type 2 diabetes in the subjects was measured based on dietary intake. Compared to lowest intake of legumes (approximately 1 ½ servings per week), participants with the highest consumption (approximately 3 1/3 servings), had a 35% lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

The researchers compared types of legumes consumed and found that lentils in particular were linked with a 33% reduction in diabetes risk. This was observed with just one serving of lentils per week versus less than ½ serving. Chickpea consumption showed a smaller impact on lowering the risk of diabetes, while other dried beans and peas showed no significant link.

The authors suggest that substituting half a serving of legumes daily in place of a half serving of grains or high-protein foods (such as eggs or meat) may aid in reducing the risk for diabetes.

So, here are some simple ways to add more legumes to your eating pattern…

  • Make lentil soup or chili
  • Add cooked lentils to casseroles or salad
  • Add chickpeas to soup or salad
  • Make your own hummus from chickpeas or lentils
  • Serve lentils as a side dish in place of rice or potatoes

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

Reference:

Nerea Becerra-Tomás, Andrés Díaz-López, Núria Rosique-Esteban, Emilio Ros, Pilar Buil-Cosiales, Dolores Corella, Ramon Estruch, Montserrat Fitó, Lluís Serra-Majem, Fernando Arós, Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventós, Miquel Fiol, José Manuel Santos-Lozano, Javier Diez-Espino, Olga Portoles, Jordi Salas-Salvadó Correspondence information about the author Jordi Salas-Salvadó Email the author Jordi Salas-Salvadó. “Legume consumption is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes incidence in adults: a prospective assessment from the PREDIMED study”. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017. 03.015

Study Link: http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(17)30106-1/abstract

Chickpeas, Garbanzo Beans, and Cece… Oh My!

I have to admit, chickpeas were one of those foods I could take or leave.

Yum! ChickpeasThe only time I ever really ate chickpeas was when they were in three bean salad or hummus. That all changed recently, when I started looking for a way to pep up our meals at home. Now these flavor and nutrient powerhouses have become a regular feature in our meal rotation.

So, what are chickpeas?

It turns out that these hearty little legumes go by many different names. Some folks call them chickpeas, while others insist on garbanzo beans as their moniker. The Italians call them cece. Don’t worry — no matter what you call them, these beans are delicious.

Hummus!The most common form of chickpeas are pale yellow in color, but they can also be black, brown, green, or red. Their flavor and texture have been described as somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. When cooked, they have a creamy consistency with a mildly nutty flavor profile. This makes them the perfect base for spiced dishes and stronger flavors.

Originally from the Middle East, chickpeas are the most widely-consumed legume in the world. Did you know that? I was surprised!

More Chickpeas!The largest producers of chickpeas are India, Australia, Pakistan, and Turkey, but these beans can also be grown the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Chickpeas are legumes, which means that they have seed pods in the plants, and are similar to beans or peas. Each chickpea seedpod usually contains two to three edible peas.

So, why should you make chickpeas a part of your diet?

Well, for one thing, they are full of nutrients! A cup of cooked chickpeas contains 15 grams of protein, with only about 269 calories and 4 grams of fat. There is no cholesterol in chickpeas, and they are very low in sodium. They are also sources of folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Like other beans, they are a great source of dietary fiber (12 grams per serving). For a closer look at the nutrient profile of chickpeas, check out the post MyPlate Flavor Exploration: Beans and Peas.

But how can you make chickpeas a part of your diet?

Chickpeas can be purchased canned and ready-to-eat. This is convenient, but unless they are canned without salt, they are generally pretty high in sodium.

Chickpeas can also be purchased as dried beans. Like other dried beans, they need to be soaked before cooking and generally have a long cooking time. To cook dried chickpeas, drain them and rinse well to remove any foam. Set them in a big saucepan and add water in a 3:1 ratio (3 parts water for every 1 part dried chickpeas). Bring the whole shebang to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. When I made chickpeas, I soaked them overnight and then cooked them on low in the slow cooker for five hours. I ended up with perfectly cooked beans!

Once cooked, chickpeas can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to a week. Since one pound of chickpeas makes about 8 cups, I had lots of beans to use. Once you are open to experimenting, chickpeas can be used as you would other beans. I put them in salads, stews, soups, casseroles or ground as hummus.  Extra cooked beans can be frozen.

Some of my favorite chickpea recipes come from the Food and Health Free Recipe Database. Take a look…

No matter what they’re called, I’m glad I gave these little nutrition powerhouses a try. I’ll do it again!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

For more health and cooking resources, check out the Nutrition Education Store. Here are some great options…

Fruit and Vegetable Wellness Challenge

Choose Wisely Poster

Home Run Cooking: Guide to Healthful and Delicious Home Cooking

We are here when you want to look your very best right now.

Cool Beans

Yes, we all know that beans are the musical fruit. But did you also know that they’re magical?

I mean, not magic magical, but beans are an inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious powerhouse! Today I want to introduce you to the joys of beans. And we’ll even talk strategies for making them less musical too.

14% of the U.S. population is eating beans on any given day. Pinto beans are the most popular bean, closely followed by navy, black, Great Northern, and garbanzo beans. These versatile legumes even fit into two distinct MyPlate groups — vegetables and protein. Did you know that beans can be considered a healthful protein food or a fantastic vegetable option? Fit them on your plate wherever they can do the most good.

BEANSSo, why eat beans? In a word: nutrients. They’re full of them! Beans are great sources of…

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Plant protein
  • Polyphenols
  • Potassium
  • Resistant starch
  • Soluble fiber
  • Total fiber
  • Zinc

According to MyPlate, many Americans don’t get nearly enough folate or potassium in their diets. Beans are a great way to correct this issue. Plus, a recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that beans “are among the only plant foods that provide significant amounts of the indispensable amino acid lysine.”

What does this mean for your health? Well, a diet rich in beans can…

  • Reduce your LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Decrease your risk of diabetes.
  • Help you manage your weight.
  • Improve the health of your colon.
  • Be rich in vital nutrients.

But wait, there’s more! Beans are wonderfully inexpensive and deliciously versatile. Did you know that canned beans cost only 4 cents per ounce, while dried beans average 11 cents per ounce? Just to compare, Angus Beef costs 31 cents per ounce!

Let’s take that bean and beef comparison one step further. What do you notice about the chart below?

Bean and Beef Comparison

A single serving of kidney beans has 20.5 fewer grams of fat, 6.5 more grams of fiber, and 48% fewer calories than lean ground beef! This means that beans are as great a bet for your health as they are for your wallet.

So, how can you make beans a part of your life?

Well, when it comes to canned beans, it’s as easy as draining and rinsing them, then tossing them into your next salad or batch of chili.

Dried beans require a little bit more effort. There are a few tried-and-true approaches, which I’ve outlined below…

  • Overnight: Cover your beans with several inches of water and let them soak in a large pot overnight. Then, when you want to cook them, drain and rinse the beans, cover with a few inches of fresh water and bring the whole shebang to a boil. Let everything boil for a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for a few hours, until beans are tender.
  • Quick: For a quicker method that skips the overnight soak, bring beans to a boil in a large pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them soak for an hour. Bring everything to a boil once more and then simmer for a few hours, until beans are tender.

A good soaking ratio for dried beans is 5 to 1 — 5 parts water to 1 part dried beans. Let’s look at an example. If you have 2 cups of dried beans, soak them in 10 cups of water. The cooking ratio for soaked beans is 1 part broth or water to 1 part beans.

Now the exact cooking time for dried beans varies based on…

  • Age of the beans
  • Altitude
  • Bean variety
  • Water hardness

Chicken Tostada SaladPhew! That was a lot of information about beans. It’s time to get practical. Here are some great (and free!) recipes for canned and cooked beans alike.

Oh and yes, sometimes eating too many beans at once will give you gas. Start introducing beans to your diet gradually in order to reduce your risk of musical side effects. Drink plenty of water while you eat beans and be sure to rinse canned beans well. These steps will further reduce your risk of any digestive discomfort so that you can eat beans without fear.

So what are you waiting for? Get our there and enjoy beans!

Here’s a free handout with a great bean recipe to help you get started…

Bean Recipe Handout

For More Information:

  1. Dry Beans. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/dry-beans.aspx#.VDxOWudN3U4
  2. Nutritional and Health Benefits of Dried Beans. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24871476
  3. Beans and Peas are Unique Foods. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-beans-peas.html
  4. The World’s Healthiest Foods: Black Beans. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=2
  5. Cost of groceries. Peapod.com

Even More Bean Resources:

Protein Bulletin Board Kit

MyPlate on a Budget Brochure

Mediterranean Meals Poster