Lentils, chickpeas, split peas… nutritionists encourage us to consume more legumes to rebalance our meals towards more vegetables. Focus on these “green” foods with multiple health benefits.
Cassoulet , small salted lentils , minestrone , pulses are the flagship ingredients of gourmet local dishes. In France and around the world, they have been staple foods for centuries alongside cereals. Our consumption started to fall after the end of the Second World War, as meat and other foods of animal origin became more accessible. We have relegated them to the back of the closet, under the pretext that they are long to prepare or not very digestible.
Recently, they return to the front of the stage, benefiting from the “veggie” trend and highlighted by great chefs. Highly recommended by nutritionists and public authorities, they are valued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which declared 2016 “International Year of Pulses” and qualifies them as: “seeds for feed the future . ” It must be recognized that there are good reasons to eat more.
Full of good nutrients for our health and our line
In recent recommendations, ANSES (1) and the HCSP (2) encourage eating it at least two to three times a week and simultaneously reducing meat and cold meats (3). Because, with an equivalent protein content, 19 to 26%, legumes do not provide saturated fat or salt, nutrients whose excess is detrimental to health.
Beans, beans and other pulses are among the most fiber-rich foods: a small portion of cooked 100 g (3 tablespoons) provides up to 12 g. However, says ANSES, as soon as the daily fiber intake exceeds 25 g, the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and breast or colon cancer decreases significantly . Finally, legumes are good sources of B vitamins and true concentrates of potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc, minerals that we often lack.
No, they don’t make you fat!
Half made up of carbohydrates (sugars), they are assimilated to starchy foods and have the reputation of making you fat. However, it is the opposite. Compared to rice or potatoes, they have a markedly lower glycemic index: their carbohydrates, digested very slowly, do not raise the blood sugar level very much (glycemia), hence an insulin production (the storage hormone !) moderate. They are also particularly recommended in case of diabetes .
Another advantage, thanks to their proteins and their fibers, they “stall” durably and protect from untimely cravings that encourage snacking on anything. However, avoid associating them with cold meats. They go very well with a tomato coulis with herbs or a dash of fragrant oil, olive, walnut or hazelnut.
Indispensable for the balance of vegetarians and flexitarians
When you follow a vegetarian diet (without meat or fish) and a fortiori a vegan diet (without any food of animal origin), you can count on them to not miss either iron or protein. It is desirable to combine them with cereals , whose proteins have a complementary composition of essential amino acids – compounds which the body needs to develop its own body proteins. What boils down to delicious traditional dishes: couscous (chickpeas + wheat semolina), dhal (lentils + rice), fajitas (red beans + corn), hummus (chickpeas) spread on bread, bean soup minestrone type with bread …
A good way to eat well at the best price
As for the flexitarian diet, recommended by the Public Authorities, it consists of eating meat less often, at most 2 to 3 times a week. Given the price difference (€ 2.50 for 20 g of protein provided by a flank steak, € 0.16 per plate of lentils) , this saves money and allows you to afford better quality meat, from extensive or label farming, or buy organic fruit and vegetables – products also recommended by ANSES.
The point of view of Caroline Rio, dietician (4).
“If pulses are good for health, they are also of great interest for the planet. Capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, they do not require chemical fertilizers. And once harvested, their roots remain in the soil and improve their fertility. With an equivalent protein intake, their carbon footprint is 50 times lower compared to that of beef. […] If you run out of time to cook them, cook them in a pressure cooker or use canned food Salads, soups, mashed potatoes, pancakes…, vary the recipes. Beans or chickpeas can even replace flour in gluten-free cakes. “
Not digestible? It’s all about preparation
They are accused of causing bloating and it is justified. Part of their starch (their main carbohydrate), encapsulated in their envelope, is not accessible to digestive enzymes and is found as is in the colon where it ferments. If you have a sensitive intestine, bet on coral lentils or split peas , which are sold in shell; or, as in the past, pass the pulses once cooked in the vegetable mill , which removes most of their skin. With the exception of lentils, legumes contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), specific sugars also fermented by the intestinal flora, which can be eliminated with a few tips.
⋙ How to cook pulses perfectly and make them more digestible?
(1) ANSES: National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety
(2) HCSP: High Committee for Public Health
(3) handles. Updating of PNNS benchmarks. Review of food consumption benchmarks. December 2016. www.anses.fr HCSP. Notice relating to the development of health messages within the framework of PNNS 4. July 2018. www.hcsp.fr
(4) Caroline Rio is co-author of: “Do you know how to taste pulses? »Ed Presses EHEPS, 2017. This book contains 70 recipes and many practical tips for cooking pulses.