Do you know what a “grain legume” is? We didn’t either when we first heard of them. But it turns out that grain legumes (so chickpeas, faba beans, lentils, field peas, winter peas, grasspeas, soybeans, peanuts, cowpeas, pidgeon peas, lima beans and even the common bean) are all considered to be grain legumes.
Grain legumes are in the botanical family Fabaceae (formerly known as the Leguminosae family) and are used for human food and animal feed. There are more than forty species and many varieties of grain legumes but in the Pacific Northwest we are most interested in chickpea, faba bean, lentil, pea, and winter pea crops. Grain legumes have historically been cultivated for their protein- and energy-rich dry seeds which are often called pulses.
The mineral micronutrient content of four types of grain legumes has been examined in a new study. Grain legumes are often overlooked as valuable sources of micronutrients, such as zinc and potassium. Diets that do not provide adequate amounts of micronutrients lead to a variety of diseases that affect most parts of the human body. One researcher notes, “Iron deficiency is the most common, followed by zinc, carotenoids, and folate.”
In a 2002 study, consumption of whole grains was found to be associated with lower fasting insulin concentrations when compared to those associated with the consumption of refined grains. This effect as well as improved insulin sensitivity was noticeably more pronounced among obese and hyperinsulinemic subjects, suggesting whole-grain consumption may be an important component of reducing risk factors for type II diabetes when only compared to the consumption of refined grains. Consumption of whole grains has also been consistently linked with a significant decrease in risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Regular whole-grain consumption lowers LDL and triglyceride levels, which contributes to an overall 26% reduction in coronary heart disease-risk factors. In addition, whole-grain consumption is inversely related to hypertension, diabetes, and obesity when compared to refined grains, all of which are negative indicators in total cardiovascular health.
Keeping grains as close to their original form as possible slows or prevents the digestion of starch, and a slower digestion is responsible for preventing spikes in blood sugar (over time spikes in blood sugar may lead to insulin resistance).
But what does it all mean?
Simple. Whole grains = good for you, whereas processed or starchy grains = not so much. It is easy to make the switch, just avoid anything that says “processed”, “starched”, “bleached” or other similar labels. The most minimal amount of processing makes for the healthiest foods.
So now that you have been made aware… make the right choice! Choose whole grains and “harvest” the benefits!