Legumes are trending. They’re featuring on restaurant menus, in glossy magazines and even in lunch-time salad bars. Research is mirroring the interest with new research emerging to strengthen the evidence for a range of health benefits of legumes.
A review published in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March by Australian researchers Antigone Kouris-Blazos and Regina Belski outlines the latest evidence for the nutrition and health benefits of legumes. This extensive review considers the evidence for the effect of legumes, and in particular Australian Sweet Lupin, on longevity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and weight management. In addition, the review considers the content of both nutrients and anti-nutrients in legumes as well as comparing current intakes with recommendations.
While most people would think of heart health as the first benefit of legumes, the authors in fact suggest the strongest evidence is for links between eating legumes and reduced risk of colorectal cancer. The World Cancer Research Report in 2006 concluded that there was limited evidence on legume consumption and reduced risk of cancer. However, it appears the evidence for legumes maybe strengthening. Three meta-analyses in the last 7 years have found eating legumes is associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer. The bulk of this research has been conducted on the effect of soy intake.
In addition to colorectal cancer, this review outlines the evidence of benefits of eating legumes regularly for longevity, as well as reduced risk of and management of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. The authors suggest that one of the key factors for the benefits of legumes may be via favourable effects on the gut microbiome.
Australian Sweet Lupin is a crop grown predominantly in Western Australia but is not well known by many Australians. The review puts of focus on this little-known legume and suggests these are unique with one of the highest combined amounts of digestible plant protein (38%) and dietary fibre (30%). The authors note that low levels of anti-nutritional factors means they do not need to be soaked, or even cooked so can be eaten raw. Initial evidence suggests sweet lupins may lower blood pressure, improve blood lipids and insulin sensitivity and favourably alter the gut microbiome.
Kouris A, Belski R. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2016;25(1):1-17.