How do Legumes Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes?

03 December, 2020
Did you know that legumes protect against type 2 diabetes? Why do experts recommend them? What's the best type? Find out in the following article!

Did you know that the consumption of legumes can help protect against type 2 diabetes?

This food group contains an important concentration of nutrients, including antioxidants, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, consuming them regularly improves metabolic health and facilitates blood glucose management.

Here, we’ll tell you more about it.

What is diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disorder that has to do with an imbalance in glucose metabolism. Insulin is the hormone responsible for getting glucose into the body’s cells.

Sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or has trouble reacting to it. As a result, blood sugar levels remain high for a long time and diabetes appears.

High blood sugar levels are harmful in the long term, even causing complications such as eye, kidney, heart, and neurological problems. Also, diabetes is associated with the development of other types of pathologies in the medium term. One of them is obesity, according to an article published in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta.

A woman testing her blood sugar.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood glucose levels rise far above normal. Its lack of control can cause serious health complications.

Incidence of diabetes in Spain

Let’s take the country of Spain as an example.

The results on diabetes in Spain presented at the 29th National Congress of the Spanish Society of Diabetes show that almost 400,000 Spaniards develop type 2 diabetes each year.

In the Spanish state, more than 5 million people know that they suffer from the disease. However, there are also approximately 2.3 million who unaware that they have diabetes. Also, about 4 million people could be in a pre-diabetic state.

Diet is directly involved in the etiology of diabetes. Experts have suggested that excess calories, high consumption of trans fats, simple carbohydrates, and a lack of physical exercise are possible triggers of the disease.

Therefore, modification of lifestyle and diet are the ways to prevent the appearance of this disease.

Read more: 6 Artificial Sweeteners to Limit Your Sugar Intake

Legumes protect against type 2 diabetes

The consumption of legumes is associated with a lower risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the consumption of 30 grams of legumes per day could reduce this risk by 35%. This is the same as eating approximately 3 portions per week.

These results come from the PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) study. This study followed 3,349 people with cardiovascular risk for more than 4 years. It showed a protective relationship of the consumption of legumes, especially lentils, regarding the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Also, the study showed positive results with the substitution of half a daily ration of pasta, rice, and boiled potato for half a daily ration of legumes.

Similarly, besides increasing the intake of legumes, the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to be highly effective in preventing type 2 diabetes. For this reason, we recommend following a diet rich in foods such as:

A wooden bowl full of dry lentils.
Legumes, especially lentils, have shown to be beneficial in the prevention and control of diabetes.

The nutritional richness of legumes

Legumes are a very nutritionally rich food. In fact, the United States Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared 2016 the international year of legume, and for good reason. The objective was to make people aware of their health benefits and thus promote their consumption among the world’s population.

Legumes are a food that’s rich in vegetable protein, fiber, minerals (iron, magnesium, and potassium), and vitamins (especially the B group). Also, they have a low glycemic index.

The amount of fiber that these foods contain allows for the gradual absorption of carbohydrates. This, according to a 2015 study, causes less pancreatic stress. For this reason, this substance is a nutrient with the capacity to help prevent this disease.

And not only this, but they also help to control the disease once it has been diagnosed.

Read more: 3 Lentil Recipes To Enjoy with Your Family

What are the most suitable legumes for diabetes?

According to the PREDIMED study we mentioned above, lentils provided the best results.

“Individuals with a higher intake of lentils during follow-up (approximately 1 portion per week), compared to individuals who consumed them in smaller quantities (less than half a portion per week), presented a 33% lower risk of suffering from the disease.”

However, other types of legumes are suitable for this purpose, such as white beans, common beans, chickpeas, or peas.

Red lentils are a variety of lentils that have no skin. They need much less cooking time and tend to fall apart a little.

For this reason, they’re ideal for people who suffer from gas or poor digestion when eating legumes. They’re also ideal for introducing legumes into the diets of young children. You can cook red lentil purees with squash, leek, or carrots.

Legumes, a very healthy food that protects against Type 2 diabetes

It’s important to cook legumes healthily. In winter, stews or sautéed legumes with vegetables, olive oil, and some white meat are more suitable if you want. And in the summer, you can prepare a variety of salads using chickpeas or lentils. And, of course, don’t forget about refreshing and delicious hummus.

In conclusion, legumes protect against type 2 diabetes. They are a food with a great amount of nutrients ideal to introduce in the frame of a varied diet. Don’t forget to combine a good diet with regular exercise to help improve health.

  • American Diabetes Association., Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care, 2009. 32: 62-67.
  • Boles A., Kandimalla R., Reddy PH., Dynamics of diabetes and obesity: epidemiological perspective. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis, 2017. 1863 (5): 1026-1036.
  • Estruch R., Ros E., Salas Salvadó J., Covas MI., et al., Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a meditteranean diet supplemented with  extra virgin olive oil or nuts. N Engl J Med, 2008.
  • Consortium I., Dietary fibre and incidence of type 2 diabetes in eight european countries: the EPIC interact study and a meta analysis of prospective studies. Diabetología, 2015. 58 (7): 1394-408.