What’s the deal with Legumes?

Legumes have similar traits to grains in their make-up; they contain phytates which inhibit nutrient absorption and cause inflammation, and contain lectins which interfere with healthy hormonal functions.

Phytates are phosphorous compounds found primarily in cereal grains, legumes, and nuts. They bind with minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc and interfere with their absorption in the body. That’s why they are sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients”. Phytic acid is the principal storage form of Phosphorus in plant tissues. The highest levels are found in the hulls. Soaking or sprouting can reduce the amount of Phytic Acid in a legume, but doesn’t address the issue of lectins or other anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibotirs. If you’re interested, here’s an article on preparing legumes, and here’s a brief overview of Phytates.

Lectins give more cause for concern. Here’s a short excerpt from a great article, Food Lectins in Health and Disease: An Introduction by  Dr. Scot Lewey:

“Of the food lectins, grain/cereal lectins; dairy lectins; and legume lectins (especially peanut lectin and soybean lectin) are the most common ones associated with reports of aggravation of inflammatory and digestive diseases in the body and improvement of those diseases and/or symptoms when avoided. Recent research by Loren Cordain PhD., has suggested that these lectins may effectively serve as a “Trojan horse” allowing intact or nearly intact foreign proteins to invade our natural gut defenses and enter behind the lines to cause damage well beyond the gut, commonly in joints, brain, and skin of affected individuals. Once damage occurs to the gut and the defense system is breached the result is what some refer to as a “leaky gut”. Moreover, many people who develop a “leaky gut” not only have gut symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain but also other symptoms beyond the gut, or extra-intestinal symptoms. Commonly affected areas are the brain or peripheral nerves, skin, joints, and various body glands. With continued exposure of the gut by these toxic food lectins a persistent stimulation of the body’s defense mechanism in a dysfunctional manner, occurs, i.e. autoimmune disease.”

You can find the complete article here.

This is a terrific summary of research and information on lectins, and another take from Mark’s Daily Apple.

For reference, here’s a listing of legumes (which are defined as “A pod, such as that of a pea or bean, that splits into two valves with the seeds attached to one edge of the valves.”:

  • Adzuki Beans
  • Asparagus Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Broad Beans (Fava Beans)
  • Butter Beans
  • Calico Beans
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
  • Chili Beans
  • Edamame
  • Great Northern Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Italian Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Soy Beans, including black soy beans
  • Split Peas
  • Wax Beans
  • White Beans
  • Dwarf Peas
  • English Peas
  • Garden Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Southern Peas
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Alfalfa
  • Red Clover
  • Lespedeza
  • White Clover
  • Lentils
  • Licorice
  • Peanuts

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rob Aloe on March 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm


    Thanks for the information. I have forwarded this blog to people I know because it is turning into a wealth of information. Hopefully it continues after the Paleo challenge is over.


    • thanks Rob! I wonder if anyone is actually reading what we post, so it’s good to know that you are! We’ll most likely keep going after the Challenge, but perhaps not with daily posts.


  2. Posted by Theo Paat on March 19, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Thanks for sharing the love Rob. Please keep telling others about this blog. Not only does the information benefit those on the challenge, but it also can be useful to those currently on, or trying to find that excuse to try the diet out.

    Kudos to you!


  3. Posted by Miles on March 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for the article. Anyone know the history of legumes? With their protein/carb content, I would have thought that Grok would have been all over them (if they were around) — quite a lot of energy packed in there. Guessing that means they were not around — as it doesn’t sound like we’ve really evolved to be able to digest them properly.


  4. Posted by Stacey M. on March 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Theo- This is completely off subject of this topic.

    I read your post on the nutritionize blog about the fried shrimp. I want to make it this weekend! Where can I find Coconut flour??


  5. Posted by Theo Paat on March 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Hey Stacy,

    That’s awesome!

    You could find coconut flour, as well as a plethora of other flours, at Whole Foods. I swear, this stuff is pretty versatile.

    Also, i used EVOO, but I’m sure you could use another one. I need to brush up on my “Cooking Oils”.

    Let me know how it goes?


  6. […] other words, no soy, dairy, alcohol, grains, rices, oats, legumes, sugar, processed or packaged foods. I’m also opting out of caffeine for 30 *sniffles*. I […]


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