Bean sweet

We know that Apple produce the iPod, but before long before the iPod was even a twinkle in a geek’s eye, plants have been producing pods of their own. Among the pea family legumes produce pods that hold seeds and at some point in human prehistory an ingenious soul thought those seeds would be a tasty treat. Today legumes are a vital part of a healthy diet and now new research is showing, as diabetes escalates around the world, that legumes might be more important than ever.

Legumes are also known as pulses and they include beans, peas, chickpeas, alfalfa, and lentils. They contain protein, B-vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and are high in soluble fibre. Legumes have a low glycaemic index (GI) meaning that they are broken down more slowly so you feel fuller for longer making them a particularly good food for preventing and managing diabetes. This latest study has emphasised the benefit of legumes in diabetes by showing that legumes have a favourable effect on a blood sugar measure known as HbA1c.

HbA1c is a molecule used to measure what has been happening with your blood sugar levels over the past few months. In your blood are red blood cells that include the molecule haemoglobin. Glucose sticks to the haemoglobin to make a “glycosylated haemoglobin” molecule, called haemoglobin A1C or HbA1c. The more glucose in the blood, the more HbA1c will be present in the blood. Red cells live for 8 -12 weeks before they are replaced so by measuring HbA1c you can tell you how high your blood glucose has been on average over the last 8-12 weeks. A normal non-diabetic HbA1C is less than 5.7 per cent, pre-diabetes is 5.7 per cent to 6.4 per cent, and diabetes is 6.5 per cent or higher.

In this new study patients with type 2 diabetes were put into one of two groups. One group were asked to eat at least one cup of legumes per day for three months. The other group was asked to eat more insoluble fibre like wholegrain wheat for three months.

At the end of the three months HbA1c values in the legume group had dropped by an average 0.5 per cent and in the insoluble fibre group by an average 0.3 per cent. Blood pressure also dropped much more in the legume group.

The researchers have said that these results emphasise the importance of reintroducing legumes into the Western diet.

In an ideal world “iPod” will be become less of a product description and more of a verb.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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