As we learned last week , legumes are not the best source of protein as they are predominantly carbohydrate based. This week we’ll learn why legumes are eliminated from a paleo diet.
Like grains, legumes contain phytic acid which binds to nutrients in foods thus decreasing the bioavailability of the nutrients. Yup, that means when you eat legumes the nutrients in the meal are not absorbed by our bodies. They don’t deplete nutrients that are already in our bodies, they just don’t let us fully absorb what nutrients are in the meal that contains them. (source 1 ) Now if you are keeping score/doing your research you are probably saying “but Pam, nuts contain phytic acid too so why are they allowed but grains and legumes not?” To quote Robb Wolf “the poison’s in the dose” meaning the portion and frequency in which grains and legumes are consumed. For most people, grains and legumes make up a large portion of the diet. Maybe you don’t eat a lot of legumes but have you stopped to think how much grain the average American eats? That’s a lot of phytic acid on a daily basis! As we learned last week, you need to eat a full cup of chickpeas in order to get 15 grams of protein, but 1 cup of chicken gives us 43 grams of protein. (source 2)
Nuts are generally used as a snack or a condiment and not used as meal replacers. If I eat paleo pancakes for breakfast I make sure to not have one of my home-made Lara Bars for a snack. If I eat apple slices with sunflower seed butter, I make sure not to have paleo granola later on. I talk about the paleoification of Standard American Diet (SAD diet) foods and how nuts and seeds are used in moderation in my house in my paleo pancakes post. This greatly reduced the phytic acid exposure because they are eaten in moderation.
This is the main reason why even before I ever knew what paleo was, I removed legumes from my family’s diet because when I ate them, I became immediately uncomfortably bloated. When my kids ate them, they immediately went to the bathroom. Have you noticed this in yourself or your kids? Do you need to take Beano in order to eat legumes? Ever wonder why this happens? Legumes are a type of FODMAP which stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These types of carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the GI tract and are easily fermented by gut bacteria. The sugars in the gut that are created & not digested trigger an osmotic effect which pulls fluid towards the bowels. So the combination of fermentation and osmosis caused by the undigested sugars is what makes so many feel bloated & gassy or can cause some (like my daughter) to have diarrhea. (source 3) My personal opinion on taking stuff like Lactaid and Beano is if your body is telling you it doesn’t like a certain food by reacting to it negatively, then to take drugs in order to eat them is not the healthiest thing to do to your body on a regular basis.
Lectins should not be unfamiliar to you at this point. Not only did I talk about them in the second week of our nutrition challenge when we started to eliminate grains from our diet, but I also went into great detail in my probiotics post . To recap, lectins are proteins that are found in all kinds of foods but not all lectins cause problems. Some people have no reaction to lectins and can eat nightshade foods like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet & hot peppers, and chili based spices, and some people get very sick when they eat them. The only way to know for sure is to eliminate them one at a time and see what happens upon reintroduction. The lectins that we avoid in grains, legumes, and dairy are the ones that lead to increased intestinal permeability and compromise our gut health via leaky gut. A good rule of thumb is if you can eat the food raw, it’s ok to eat. If you have to cook it first then it contains damaging lectins. This is how nuts and seeds are ok to eat in moderation but grains and legumes are not. (source 4)
Good luck this week! We are in the home stretch with only 3 weeks left! How has it been going so far? I would love to hear from you if you have been following the summer nutrition challenge. I will be looking for some reader feedback to post on the blog if you are interested in being a featured guest. Shoot me an email or reply to this post.