Keeping it healthy

Paleo Part 4 - Legumes


When talking about legumes, this includes a variety of beans such as: , black beans, kidney beans; a variety of peas such as chickpeas, green peas, snow peas: certain nuts like peanuts and soy nuts; and lentils.

The Paleo diet encourages people to avoid legumes. It states that phytic acid, lectin in most legumes and phytoestrogens in soy products, are harmful to your health [1]. I found this an interesting topic to research, as some of what the paleo advocates say about legumes are correct. Unfortunately, they have only taken a part of the evidence and not looked at the bigger picture.

Phytic Acid -

Yes it can bind minerals, and can be a problem if you have higher than normal requirements, or are not having enough minerals (calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium) in your diet, or are deficient in these minerals already [2]. But for generally well nourished, healthy people, when consumed with a healthy, balanced diet, there is no evidence that it reduced the availability of these minerals [2]. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that phytic acid has significant health benefits.

These include:

  • Reducing the risk of blood clots,

  • Reduction of cholesterols,

  • Protective effects in inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegenerative diseases,

  • Prevention of cardiovascular diseases,

  • Prevention of kidney stone formation and

  • Inhibition of cancer development [2].

Another scientific article does say that the best way to reduce the phytic acid in legumes, is to allow them to germinate or to ferment them [3]. Germination is a simple process in which you allow the legumes to remain moist until they start to sprout. So if you are particularly worried about the anti-nutrient effect of the phytic acid, then you could try this. It just takes a little bit of pre-planning to get those legumes into some water for a couple of days!

Lectin -

This is a protein that also binds to nutrients. However, the cooking process stops this from taking effect [3].

Phytoestrogens -

There are a few types of phytoestrogens, but the ones the paleo world are concerned about in particular are in soy products. After reading the research around this, there was some concern for the development of breast cancers in the late 1990’s, with phytoestrogen intake. More research has been done, and it would seem that the majority of studies point to phytoestrogens in soy having beneficial effects, with the more soy consumed the less chance of breast cancer [4].

So in summary, the more research I have looked at, the better legumes are looking. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first that I may not find them to be beneficial. I am pleased to say, that this economical meat alternative has many health benefits and are actually very good for your health!. This is surely a relief for vegans as well as cultures around the world that have relied on it as a primary protein source for generations!

I have one more blog post on Paleo coming up. It will be all about dairy foods!


[1] Paleo Leap. (2016). What's wrong with beans and legumes? Retrieved October 6, 2016, from Paleo Leap:

[2] Silva, E. O., & Bracarense, A. P. F. R. L. (2016). Phytic acid: From antinutritional to multiple protection factor of organic systems. Journal of Food Science, 81(6), R1357-R1362. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13320

[3] Gebrelibanos, M., Tesfaye, D., Raghavendra, Y., & Sintayeyu, B. (2013). Nutritional and health implications of legumes. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 4(4), 1269-1279.

[4] Hard, A., & Edelstein, S. (2015). A commentary on phytoestrogens and disease. American Journal of Health Education, 46(2), 67-69. doi:10.1080/19325037.2014.997941.

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