Whether you are trying to reduce or eliminate your animal protein intake, cleaning up your diet, or just looking to add variety, lentils and legumes are excellent additions to the diet.
A quick note here. A number of you may have just gasped about the idea of eating lentils and legumes and whole grains. Unfortunately, like so many other beautiful foods including whole grains, roots and squashes, some people have cut out lentils and legumes from their diets because of specific trendy diets and its ideas. I am a firm believer that most diets have some truth in them, and may be beneficial for periods of times based on the intention of the person, their health and other concerns. I am always concerned when any one whole category of real food is vilified or eliminated for extended lengthens of time. That being said, let’s look at how beautiful beans are.
Beans and lentils wear dual hats, being both a protein and a complex carbohydrate–something the body loves. Their complex nature regulate and balance blood glucose, creating a slow even rise in sugar rather than spiking it like sugars and refined (simple) carbohydrates. They are high in protein, fiber, abundant in B vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and potassium. They are low in fat, calories and have no cholesterol–actually, they lower cholesterol especially in high fat diets. Lentils and legumes also contain properties that counter cancer causing compounds in the intestines, they help relieve depression and fortify the body overall.
Unfortunately, most legumes are not complete in their amino acid profile, lacking in adequate amounts of tryptophan and methionine. By adding the right whole grain to the right lentil or legume you can complete their profile.
The Energetics of Lentils & Legumes
Like all foods, lentils and legumes create a post-metabolic phenomenon in the body. This is simply what affect they have in the body once they are ingested. Do they heat, do they cool, move the energy inward, outward, what organs to they enter? Though each legume and lentil has its own specialties and nature–however we can look at them in as a broad category.
- They all nourish the Kidneys and adrenal glands--tired, exhausted, fatigued, have Yang collapse–you want beans in your diet.
- They encourage growth and stimulate the brain, spine and bone marrow–all of these functions are ruled by the Kidneys in Asian Medicine.
- They drain damp excess conditions like edema, phlegm, yeast and obesity.
- They calm the mind, settle the nerves and build muscles. Simply put, they anchor and build stability.
- They help us adapt. Beans help to influence our personalities by making us adaptable and tolerant–how can you go wrong?
Back to the problem at hand…beans and legumes are an incomplete protein
No worries, match them to the right grain and you can complete the amino acid profile. We will look at soy later, as it deserves its own category–let’s look at a few lentils and legumes and their matches.
Highly nutritious and tender. Aduki’s are small, tender red beans that are used extensively in Japanese, Asian cultures and macrobiotic cooking. They are used in stews, soups, as a sweet bean paste in mochi, and red bean ice cream. Energetically, aduki’s are neutral, sweet and sour. They nourish the Heart, Small Intestines and Spleen–they tonify, astringe and drain. Fabulous for edema, weight loss and diarrhea. Stay away from aduki if you are very thin and frail. Combine with barley a complete protein profile.
Native to India, these little green beans have become a big part of the Chinese diet. Energetically, mung beans are cool and sweet. They nourish and drain excess from the GallBladder, Liver, Heart and Stomach. Very detoxifying use mung beans to treat excess patterns like Summer Heat and high blood pressure and to clear out heavy metals.. They also clear the arteries–wonderful for helping lower cholesterol. Avoid if you are chronically tired, fatigued have heavy watery diarrhea or are chronically cold. Combine with barley for a complete protein.
Lentils and peas
Lentils are members of the pea family, and native to India. They are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, vitamin A. The grow easily, don’t need to be presoaked to cook and are the easiest legume to digest. Great starting point if you are new to legumes. They are good to eat with wheat or peas to make them a complete protein. Lentils are neutral and sweet. They nourish the Heart, Kidneys, Spleen and Stomach. Safe for excess and deficiency conditions. They stimulate the adrenals and increase vitality. Combine with wheat berries for a full protein profile.
Black beans are used heavily in Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Native to Spain, these beans are packed with nutrition but are very low in lysine. Black beans energetically are warm and sweet. They nourish the Kidneys and Spleen are used for treating Kidney disharmonies, backaches, reproductive issues, weak ankles and knees, and hot flashes. Whole grain rice (no Uncle Ben’s) which is naturally high in lysine is the perfect match for black beans.
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas
Used in Middle Eastern and Basque cooking, chick peas take a little longer to cook. They are very high in calcium, iron and vitamin A and potassium. Chickpeas are the stars in recipes like baba ganouj, falafel and hummus. Chickpeas are sweet and neutral. They nourish the Heart, Stomach and Spleen and pair with rice. They are a good source of unsaturated fats. Craving hummus now?