One of the most frequently asked questions about paleo is ‘why does the paleo diet exclude beans and legumes?’ So today I am going to explore that a bit more.
Beans come in many forms, adzuki beans, black beans, broad beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, soy beans and the list goes on.
There are also many types of legumes as well, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, and the list goes on.
I Thought Beans and legumes were healthy…
Being a vegetarian for more than 15 years prior to becoming paleo I always thought beans and legumes were good for you, right? I mean that’s where we get protien from as a vego, they are recommended as healthy and full of good nutrients, so naturally we think they are okay.
But all is not as it seems…
Beans And Legumes Are Not Optimal Food Choices
Even though beans and legumes may contain some nutrients, they are not as nutrient dense as fresh fruits and vegetables and therefore not an optimal choice. They also don’t provide the best source of protein, especially for non vegetarians. Fresh meats, fish, eggs, and poultry provide a much wider range of nutrients and the full amino acid chain of proteins. Beans and legumes care not complete proteins so meats, fish, eggs and poultry are obviously a better choice for protein.
Beans and legumes also contain quite a high level of carbohydrates, which may in itself have a negative affect on blood sugar regulation (I won’t go into that now) and that equals havoc on many different levels especially if you are trying to lose weight, have health issues, or any type of metobolic problem.
Beans and Legumes contain Lectins
But researching the story on beans and legumes reveals that they have anti nutrients known as lectins, along with some sugars and other prohibitors that can be very difficult for many people to digest.
So what are lectins exactly?
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans. Until recently their main use was as histology and blood transfusion reagents, but in the past two decades we have realised that many lectins are (a) toxic, inflammatory, or both; (b) resistant to cooking and digestive enzymes; and (c) present in much of our food. Source
So what that means is that beans and legumes are:
Literally… toxic. The problem is that usual preparation methods of prolonged soaking and rinsing, cooking, sprouting, or fermenting only partially neutralizes those toxic substances ” Source
So if that’s the case and preparing beans and legumes only partially fixes the issue then really they are not an optimal food.
But there’s a little bit more to the story…
Your Digestion Rules!
Overall it’s all about your digestion and gut health.
I don’t know about you but if I eat certain types of beans and legumes I get alot of gas! And if you experience any kind of digestive dysfunction such as bloating and gas, or any type of different physical sensation, such as headaches, aching joints and so forth, then these foods do not agree with your digestive system or you.
When we disrupt the way our digestive system functions we are actually compromising our immune system, which is why so many people are getting sick from a modern diet filled with grains, beans, legumes and so forth.
You see, 70% of our immunity resides in our gut. Yes that means that the food we eat is having a direct impact on our immune function and the state of our health overall.
So if you think the food you eat does not affect the way you feel or the state of your health, then think again!
When you consume foods that disagree with your body:
you are constantly disrupting your own digesting process, which is then in a cascade, disrupting your entire immunity…if you are constantly eating foods that are challenging your immunity then you are demanding an immune response at your gut lining all the time” Source
That means our body is requiring resources to fight at the gut level all the time.
Further to this, the lectins in wheat, kidney bean, soy bean and peanuts are also known to increase intestinal permeability, also known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’ or ‘candida overgrowth’. I’ll have to do another post about this, but what it means is that toxins are leaking through your gut lining back into your blood stream, and that’s not good.
But Maybe I Can Eat Beans And Legumes
Well on the other side of the arguement, some may say that beans and legumes are okay. That may be true for some people but the problem is that many of us have been overconsuming grains, beans, legumes and dairy for far too long. Therefore many of us have compromised our immunity and health to the point where we need to cut them out for a while just to know what the issues really are.
You may be able to eat beans and legumes. But if your health is not optimal right now, or if you need to lose weight right now, then eliminate these less than optimal foods and see what happens.
Just remember, if the state of our health comes directly from the foods we consume, and if beans and legumes may be contributing to the problem, then it comes to reason that you may need to exclude them from your diet, maybe not forever but at least for a while.
And even if you choose to reintroduce them, I’d keep them at a minimum since they are not an optimal food.
When it comes to paleo, many people want a one size fits all plan with the rules set out in a clear to understand fashion. But it simply doesn’t work that way. One person may do just fine to eat some kidney beans occasionally, whilst another person won’t. One person my be able to eat sprouted alfalfa, another person won’t. One person may be able to include some dairy, another won’t.
It’s up to you to monitor how food affects your individual body and learn what works for you.
Choose the most optimal foods you can, at least most of the time. And if you choose to eat less than optimal foods, monitor how they react in your body and then make the choice on whether you want to include them or not.
However as already stated, if you’ve got issues, you’ve got issues and it’s best to eliminate all possible contributing factors, and that means no beans and legumes!
I hope you found this article helpful
P.S. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to help you get right into paleo, the Whole30 Nutrition Guide is excellent.