I know it can be difficult deciding which foods are “good” for you and which ones you should avoid.
I can’t definitively write this and tell you that anything is good or bad, but what I can do is go by my own experiences and those of other people who have followed the primal lifestyle.
Today I want to take this time to answer quite a common question amongst people wanting to get started with the paleo lifestyle.
Why aren’t legumes on the paleo menu?
Well I think you will be surprised with my response to this because as with many things in life, there isn’t a “black and white” answer and there is two sides to the coin. Yes i’m sorry to throw a spanner in the works but its true! I also don’t want you to become too rigid with your ways of thinking. Narrow, rigid thinking will only make it harder to stick with a particular lifestyle and paleo certainly has had its critics regarding this.
Are Legumes Paleo Or Not?
Modern research actually suggests that several contemporary hunter-gatherer groups, such as the Kung San of the Kalahari desert (who relied heavily on a legume called the tsin bean) consumed large amounts of legumes. So to say that legumes aren’t Paleo isn’t strictly true.
“Okay, so shouldn’t I eat legumes??”
Again the answer isn’t cut and dry. I personally try to avoid legumes and I will explain why shortly. We at the Natural Body Blueprint use The Paleo diet as a template for healthy eating and living. It shouldn’t be a constraint on your life, only a way of enhancing your health and fitness.
If we are looking at it from a purely Paleo point of view however, based on the modern research and exploration of these tribes peoples, I would say it doesn’t actually matter if you consume legumes or not.
Why We Don’t Advocate Legumes
Right, so as I said I do try to avoid legumes wherever possible. Certainly foods like soy beans, red beans etc as they contain toxic anti-nutrients called lectins and phytic acid.
Lectins are a type of protein which can bind to the membranes of our cells. Studies have actually shown that lectins can hinder growth, damage the lining of the small intestine, damage skeletal muscle, and interfere with the function of the pancreas. This can cause issues with blood sugar regulation, causing hunger pangs, unparalleled weight gain and in more serious cases, diabetes.
This doesn’t sound great right? Well as I said there’s two sides to this coin. Further studies have actually shown that when cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes, you can deactivate the lectins effects on the body. This actually leaves very little lectin activity to harm the body.
Furthermore, the simple sugars which are found in many of our favourite legumes also bind to the lectins, further reducing their toxic effects on the body, what a result!
Phytic acid is phosphorus in storage form and is found in many plants, especially in the bran or hull of different grains. It is also found in nuts and seeds. Phytic acid when consumed binds to the minerals in our body’s, preventing them from being properly absorbed.
This is another reason why we choose to avoid legumes, but again there’s another side to this.
In small amounts phytic acid does very little to harm us and the the good gut bacteria absorbs a lot of it as well. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the favourite Paleo foods, such as spinach, swiss chard and cacao beans (chocolate) contain more phytic acid then most legumes!
I know you may be tempted to sack off the chocolate and swiss chard now as well as legumes, but just remember, the amount itself is the poison. As with everything in life moderation is key and when you consume foods with phytic acid within them, it CAN be beneficial in moderate amounts.
Legumes Can Cause Bloating and Gas
Now because I am giving to sides to the story here may lead you to some confusion, however I am merely suggesting that you can’t take any diet/lifestyle/advice as dogma. This is an age old subject which isn’t covered enough in my personal opinion.
I am however going suggest you limit your legumes (or eliminate if you feel it is something you can do easily) for one more reason.
Bloating and gas!
I myself cannot handle legumes and my body will let me know about it when I do consume them. My stomach swells and I quite often become a walking talking trombone. A little too much information probably but you get the picture!
Legumes contain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed by many people, which is the reason for these unwanted side effects. Everyone has an issue with this to some degree, however it may be on a small level and certainly if a particular person has been eating this way for a long period of time, it can be difficult to tell the difference between normality and abnormal effects on the body.
Final Thoughts For Today’s Post
Legumes are not necessary for our health. There are many other foods which contain the vital nutrients our body’s needs and which require much less preparation time to make the nutrients readily available for us to absorb.
However if you can tolerate legumes and consume them in small amounts (2-3 times per week as a recommendation) I see no reason why you cannot enjoy them, even if they are not “classic” Paleo.
Like I said, I avoid them for the reasons I gave above and because i’m not actually a huge fan anyway. But you have to have an open mind and consider different opinions and studies and only then should you make a decision based on this advice.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this post and you’ve obtained some elightenment on the subject of legumes. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more “black and white” but it would be an injustice to all legumes out there!
So take care and don’t forget to follow us on social media and possibly share this post along if you deem it worthy!