Last week we explored the pros of eating legumes and why they would be great in the diet of anyone looking to eat more plant based. They’re filled with fiber, protein and other health promoting properties, but there is a downsides of consuming legumes. They may not be suitable for everyone and that’s why in this article we’ll explore the downsides of those same legumes.

It might sounds contradictory to the previous article but as with anything nutrition is highly personal, so use what works for you!

Lentil salad

Digestive Discomfort:

One of the most common concerns associated with legumes is their tendency to cause digestive discomfort in some individuals. This can manifest as bloating, gas, or abdominal pain, particularly in those who have difficulty digesting certain carbohydrates found in legumes, such as oligosaccharides. These indigestible sugars pass through the digestive tract undigested until they reach the colon, where they are fermented by gut bacteria, producing gas as a byproduct. While some people may tolerate legumes without any issues, others may experience digestive distress, especially when consuming larger quantities or inadequately cooked legumes. For those prone to digestive discomfort, it may be advisable to start with small servings of well-cooked legumes and gradually increase intake to assess tolerance levels.

Antinutrient Content:

Another consideration when it comes to legumes is their relatively high content of antinutrients, compounds that interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients and may have adverse effects on health. One such antinutrient found in legumes is phytic acid, which binds to minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium, inhibiting their absorption in the body. This can potentially lead to mineral deficiencies over time, particularly in individuals with marginal nutrient status or those who rely heavily on legumes as a dietary staple. While soaking, sprouting, or fermenting legumes can help reduce their phytic acid content and enhance nutrient availability, it’s important to be mindful of the potential impact of antinutrients on overall nutrient absorption and health.

Allergenic Potential:

For some individuals, legumes can pose a risk of allergic reactions, ranging from mild discomfort to severe anaphylaxis. Legume allergies are most commonly associated with peanuts and soybeans, although other legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and peas can also trigger allergic responses in susceptible individuals. Symptoms of legume allergy may include hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal distress. While true legume allergies are relatively rare, they can be serious and require strict avoidance of the offending legume. It’s essential for individuals with known legume allergies to carefully read food labels, communicate their dietary restrictions to others, and carry appropriate medications such as epinephrine auto-injectors in case of accidental exposure.

Potential for Flatulence:

The reputation of legumes as a gas-producing food is not entirely unfounded, as certain compounds found in legumes, such as oligosaccharides, can ferment in the colon and produce gas as a byproduct. While this is a normal physiological process, it can lead to uncomfortable bloating, flatulence, and social embarrassment for some individuals. Cooking legumes thoroughly, soaking them before cooking, and gradually increasing intake over time can help reduce their flatulence-inducing potential. Additionally, pairing legumes with foods rich in enzymes or spices such as ginger or cumin may aid in digestion and minimize gas production.

Potential for Blood Sugar Spikes:

Despite their many health benefits, some legumes, particularly those with higher carbohydrate content, may have the potential to cause blood sugar spikes in susceptible individuals. This is especially relevant for individuals with diabetes or those who are insulin resistant, as rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels can have adverse effects on health. While legumes are generally considered low glycemic index foods, their glycemic response can vary depending on factors such as cooking method, variety, and portion size. Pairing legumes with foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can help mitigate their impact on blood sugar levels and promote greater satiety and stable energy throughout the day.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, while legumes offer numerous health benefits and are a valuable source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it’s important to acknowledge that they may not be suitable for everyone. Factors such as digestive discomfort, antinutrient content, allergenic potential, flatulence, and blood sugar impact should be considered when incorporating legumes into your diet. By being mindful of individual tolerance levels, cooking methods, and portion sizes, you can enjoy the nutritional benefits of legumes while minimizing their potential downsides. As with any dietary choice, moderation, variety, and individualization are key to optimizing health and well-being.

Author

Hi my name is Simone and I am a food photographer and blogger from the Netherlands. I strongly believe in the power of good food and think that making good choices every day will definitely create a healthier future. I've recently turned 61 and now more than ever, realize that health is everything. Check the link below to learn more about my story. I'm a certified health coach and live in the Netherlands with my two cats Humhrey and Buffy.

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