What’s the ultimate healthy ageing superfood? Blueberries? Baobab? Some weird Brazilian seed? You’re not going to believe this, but there’s something healthier than all of those. Even better, they are way cheaper than blueberries and you’ve probably got them at home already.
I’m talking about beans, pulses and lentils. It’s rare to find a list of longevity-boosting foods which doesn’t include these powerhouses in the top 10. Lentils and beans are a main-stay of the Mediterranean diet, which we bang on about regularly and which is widely recognised as the most effective diet to reduce our risk of age-related degenerative diseases.
They are packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. 100g of cooked lentils provides around 9g of protein and 8g of fibre. This nutritional punch means they keep us feeling fuller for longer too: studies have linked them to weight loss. As a low glycaemic food they help stabilise blood sugar.
We’ve blogged about beans and lentils here before but a slew of new research reveals just why these humble foods are earning all the longevity plaudits:
- Packed with polyphenols: Research in China, recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, reveals the high levels of polyphenols in all beans and pulses (and lentils in particular). This gives them greater anti-oxidant power than other health-boosting ‘super’ foods like blueberries, onions and cherries. These polyphenols are powerful tools in the fight against diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and inflammation.
- Reducing diabetes risk: Clinical studies show that consumption of three or more servings of beans a week reduces the risk of diabetes almost by 35%. In a small study run by the University of California, Davis, sufferers of Metabolic Syndrome (which can be a precursor to Type-2 diabetes and heart disease) who ate black beans each day as part of the trial showed increased insulin sensitivity, which would delay the onset of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
- Beating blood pressure: Research at the University of Toronto found that eating around 190g (1cup) of legumes a day seemed to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood pressure.
- Lowering cholesterol levels: Another Canadian study found that eating pulses significantly reduced levels of LDL – aka ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood. High levels of LDL are linked to heart disease.
- Reducing cancer risk: Research in Spain found linked consumption of legumes to a reduce risk of death from cancer.
- Boosting gut health: Further studies have given beans and pulses a starring role in good gut health as they are packed with prebiotics. And good gut health is at the heart of the fight against ageing diseases, from cancer and Alzheimer’s to arthritis.
We work pulses and beans into every meal that we can. There are a load of bean-based recipes on the blog – black bean chilli, this ready-in-seconds salad, lentil soup, and warming dhal – all of which are on heavy rotation in our kitchens.
Earlier this week we shared an exclusive cookie recipe with our pals over at the lovely Beyond Fabulous website http://www.beyondfabulous.co.uk/2018/02/25/kale-cocoas-secret-ingredient-cookies/ Shhh! Don’t tell, but the secret ingredient in these delicious cookies is actually chickpeas! The cookies are free from gluten and refined sugar. They’re high in protein too so make a great after-school or post-workout snack.
And here’s another great bean-based snack idea – roasted chickpeas. They are so versatile – grab a handful as a snack or use to top salads, soups and grain bowls. Super simple too.
- 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbs olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- ½ tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Dry the chickpeas really well. Mix the salt and oil in a bowl. Add the chickpeas and stir to make sure they are well coated. Spread on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Mix the spices together then sprinkle over the chickpeas. Stir well, then return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until golden brown.