Beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts and soy are very rich in plant-based proteins and contain a lot of fibre. They are an especially valuable source of protein in diets containing little or no meat.
Legumes or pulses -- with the exception of soy and peanuts -- are low in fat and rich in minerals, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and manganese. They also contain high levels of B vitamins and a multitude of protective substances. Pulses contain complex carbohydrates that only raise blood sugar levels slowly, thus, avoiding binge eating attacks. Given their high levels of fibre, they are the ideal stomach fillers. Legumes are considered to have high potential as a prophylaxis for cardiovascular diseases and even cancer, among other conditions. Health organisations worldwide recommend legumes as part of a healthy diet to avoid classic “diseases of affluence”, such as diabetes and obesity. Thus, the United Nations Organization has declared 2016 the UN International Year of Pulses: “aiming to raise awareness about the important role of pulses in sustainable food production and healthy diets and their contribution to food security and nutrition.”
Low-fat preparation is important to ensure that digestion difficulties that can be caused by pulses’ natural ingredients (stachyose, an indigestible carbohydrate) will not be exacerbated. Stachyose passes into the water the pulses are left to soak in and should always be disposed of and not used. Raw beans contain different levels of phasin, a lectin mixture toxic to humans, depending on their variety, which increases blood coagulation. These lectins are destroyed by cooking or heating pulses to 75 °C.
Pulses – a regular part of our diet
Legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils, should be a regular part of our diet, if tolerated well, given their high levels of fibre, iron and high-quality proteins. The Austrian Nutrition Pyramid recommends consuming three portions of vegetables and/or pulses per day. The following rule of thumb applies: one portion or serving equals about a fist-sized amount of cooked pulses (150-200 g cooked or 70-100 g uncooked).
Baby food containing soy-protein should only be used under special medical conditions and only after consulting a paediatrician. Consuming a normal amount of soy products (flakes, tofu) as complementary foods, -- such as a source of protein -- is fine. Make sure that the products you buy do not contain additional spices (chili, salt). A wide variety of foods with high nutritional values is important for sufficient supplies of nutrients and energy.