Legumes are edible seeds and the main ones are beans, peas, chickpeas but also lentils and broad beans. Eating legumes is really a healthy choice because they are rich in carbohydrates and proteins, bring nourishment and energy to the body, are able to counteract constipation but they also act by lowering cholesterol, especially LDL, as evidenced by a meta-analysis published in 2011 in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, which has grouped several studies from 1966 to 2009. But the benefits of the legumes do not stop here, the legumes indeed help to decrease blood pressure, give a sense of satiety and play a role in reducing the speed with which the body assimilates the sugars of meals thus helping to keep the blood sugar levels under control, as suggested by Dr Fausto Aufiero in his book The nutritional and therapeutic role of food. However, in order to get the most benefit from the legumes, you should have some precautions. Firstly, there is the problem given by the phytic acid, a substance contained practically in all the legumes and often referred to as an anti-nutrient because it interferes with the calcium absorption. In order to make phytic acid inactive, for dried legumes a long period of soaking in water is recommended. Leaving the legumes to soak for several hours, then cooking and eating them only when they are well cooked also helps counteract an unpleasant effect often associated with this food and that is intestinal fermentation, which can also be avoided by seasoning the legumes with digestive herbs, such as rosemary, and cooking them with a bay leaf, useful to counteract the formation of gas.
As for food combinations, it would be better to avoid associating legumes with other types of proteins, such as meat, cheese or eggs as this would make the legumes difficult to digest. Perfect instead the combination with cereals, because in this way the dish is really complete from the point of view of the contribution of essential amino acids. In fact, legumes contain lysine, which plays an essential role in the formation of enzymes, hormones and antibodies, contributes to the formation of collagen, the fixation of calcium in the bones and is missing in most cereals that instead contain methionine and cysteine, important to promote the detoxification of the body from toxins and that are in poor quantities in legumes. Excellent, for this reason, the recipe of pasta and beans or soup with pasta and chickpea, just to give some examples. Finally, for a better absorption of the iron of legumes you should take, together with this food, a source of vitamin C. How? Very simple, when the dish is ready, just before serving it, you can add a few slices of fresh hot pepper or a handful of chopped parsley. Or you can add a tablespoon of lemon juice in the soaking water of the legumes or also you can complete the meal with a fruit rich in vitamin C like a kiwi, a handful of strawberries or an orange.