Legumes are a food group rich in B vitamins containing various beneficial minerals (magnesium, calcium and potassium) and considerable amounts of fibre, and are considered to be a food having a low glycemic index, meaning that the increase of blood glucose levels is gradual after consumption. Because of these unique nutritional qualities, consuming legumes regularly can help to improve health. In fact, to improve awareness of the nutritional benefits of legumes, 2016 was declared as the international legume year by the FAO.
Type 2 diabetes is a significant global health problem impacting over 400 million adults in 2015, and although legumes have long been thought to provide protection against type 2 diabetes, there’s been little research up to now to confirm this association.
To raise general knowledge of the topic, researchers looked at the association between different sub-types of non-soy legume consumption and type 2 diabetes risk in high cardiovascular disease risk individuals. They also looked at how substituting other carbohydrate-rich and protein-rich foods with legumes affected the development of the disease.
They analyzed 3349 individuals who had high cardiovascular disease risk but not having type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. After 4 years, the outcomes showed that in comparison to people with a reduced consumption of total legumes – chickpeas, lentils, peas and beans – (12.73 grams/day, roughly equivalent to 1.5 servings each week of 60g of raw legumes), people with a greater consumption (28.75 grams a day, equal to 3,35 servings a week) had a 35% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Lentils had a particularly strong link to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes out of the different legume subtypes. Those individuals who had a greater consumption of lentils during the follow-up (nearly 1 serving a week) compared to those people with a lower consumption (under half a weekly serving), had a reduction of 33% in type 2 diabetes risk. It was also discovered that substituting half a serving a day of foods rich in carbohydrates or protein, including baked potato, rice, bread, and eggs, for half a serving of legumes a day was linked to a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes incidence as well.
The bottom line is that the consumption of legumes is important for preventing chronic diseases like diabetes.