Legumes, the food of the future

Currently there are two silent problems that need to be extinguished from our planet. On the one hand, we have the hunger suffered by about 800 million people, which leads to a serious lack of nutrients. As a consequence of this deficiency, the second silent problem arises, obesity.  This is suffered by more than 500 million inhabitants of the planet. Now, how could these problems be addressed? We believe that for big problems simple and effective solutions must be applied. That is why one of the challenges of the 21st century is to increase the quantity and quality of food, so that its production is safe and sustainable.

A practical and effective solution?

THE LEGUMES! the Legumes have been essential to human nutrition for over 90 million years. However, their high nutritional value is often not recognized and we value their consumption much less. It is not only their nutritional quality, but it is a food of the future, because of its sustainable production, which does not require large amounts of water. It grows even in desert climates, it brings impressive nitrogen values to the land helping deforestation, among others.

What are legumes?

Legumes belong to the plant family Fabaceae or Leguminosae, the third largest group of plants on the planet. Among the most common are lentils, chickpeas, beans, broad beans, peas, etc. They are harvested mainly to obtain the dry seed. However, new production techniques use them as fodder for animals. In addition, the residues from the harvest are used to maintain a semi-permanent vegetable layer that provides incredible benefits to the soil, retaining humidity and preventing erosion.

What are the health benefits of these grains?

Undoubtedly, part of the current nutritional problems go through several factors such as chronic hunger and nutritional imbalance due to overconsumption. Therefore, legumes are and will be the solution to those problems. Next, we explain some of their benefits on our health:

  1. They contain a high content of lean protein in fiber.
  2. Rich in vitamins (B group, folate, thiamine, niacin), nutrients and minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc
  3. They act as antioxidants, counteracting aging.
  4. They contain twice as much protein as cereals such as wheat and oats
  5. They provide complex carbohydrates and fiber, therefore, they are of slow and gradual liberation of energy, causing sensation of satiety.
  6. It controls blood glucose levels, being ideal for people with diabetes, since it improves their resistance to insulin, also controlling weight.
  7. They reduce heart disease, thanks to their high fiber content which lowers bad cholesterol. It is estimated that people who consume vegetables three, four or more times a week contribute to reducing up to 22% the risk of heart disease, in relation to those who consume them less than once a week.
  8. You won't be short on iron, so it's excellent for preventing anemia in women and children.
  9. If you are allergic to gluten, this is your food. They are gluten-free
  10. They contain phytoestrogens, which prevent cognitive decline and reduce symptoms of menopause and bone health (if you want to know more about bone health, sport and women, go to our post "Osteoporosis and sport, the perfect complement")

Although legumes are a food of great nutritional value, they have an incomplete set of amino acids. Therefore, we recommend combining them with rice or other cereals such as corn, barley (to see more details on how to correctly combine legumes, go to our post about ''Foods with more protein to vary your diet").

The other practice that we recommend adding to your vegetables is vitamin c. Because in this way you will be helping your body to better absorb the iron from the legumes.

If we consume vegetables, do we positively help the threat of climate change?

It is true that our climate is changing rapidly and suddenly due to a natural effect of the earth, called global warming. it is also true that this effect is aggravated by human activity, such as deforestation, destruction of land and marine ecosystems, etc. Even if it is not created, all these negative factors could be improved with the sustainable consumption of legumes. But how? These plants improve the absorption of carbon from the soil, being captured by the land. It is estimated that legumes can provide between 30 and 40 kg of nitrogen for each hectare of land. Moreover, they do not need nitrogen fertilizers, since they have their own contribution from the atmosphere, thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases that is generated by such fertilizers.

Another important aspect has to do with water, since they do not need much water to develop, being able to grow in desert places. This allows us to save water at a more global level since during its production much less water is consumed than that needed to obtain animal protein sources. It is estimated that to produce one kilo of vegetables you need about 1,250 liters, while to obtain one kilo of chicken meat you will need 4,350 liters of water, and up to 13,000 for one kilo of beef.

Finally, legume crop residues can be used as fodder to increase nitrogen concentration in the livestock diet, improving animal health and growth.  

Good news, legume consumption is on the rise

 According to the Good Food Institute, in the United States alone, retail sales of these products increased by 11% to 4.5 thousand US last year and, according to BIS Research, the global vegetable market is projected to expand by a CAGR of 13.82% and reach 480 thousand US by 2024.

These numbers have drawn the attention of major meat companies such as Tyson Foods and major restaurant chains such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC. In conclusion, we are seeing the food industry respond to consumer demands for healthy and nutritious foods that are environmentally friendly. And more often than not, the food industry is turning to legumes to meet this demand. Pea protein in particular is taking its time in the spotlight, however, major players in the pulses sector are also investing in beans, lentils and other legumes (Cindy Brown President of the Confederation Global Legumes).

Written by fitnnes and sport team

Bibliographic Sources

  • LEGUMBRES, nutritious seeds for a sustainable future

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