The Paleo Diet: Legumes
Foods that qualify as legumes are beans, lentils, chickpeas, pulses, peas and peanuts.
The argument why each of these food items is not permitted on a Paleo diet comes with sound reasoning as their detrimental effects on the human body cannot be undermined. Here is a look at why legumes have been given a red flag for Paleo followers:
Can’t be consumed unless cooked
Typically any foods that involve cooking are a no go on a true paleo lifestyle. Of course the modern version of the diet involves cooking all its foods but these are foods that were accessible to the Paleolithic people. Wild game, fruits and vegetables along with seeds and nuts were present in nature to be consumed by our ancestors. As such these foods are considered acceptable on the diet.
Grains, beans and legumes on the other hand, cannot be consumed unless cooked or harvested. Our Paleolithic ancestors were not familiar with the process of harvesting so had no way of getting grains or legumes into an edible readiness. With no means of processing them into food, they were naturally disregarded as esculent.
Inadequate nutritional density
According to our modern eating standards grains are great for fiber while legumes and beans are excellent sources of protein. They do after all cater to the protein needs of vegetarians. But when put up against the protein content of fresh meats, eggs and fish, they sadly pale in comparison. The latter set of foods is a better protein provider with adequate supplies of other nutrients and amino acids. But what grains and legumes do provide are a substantial amount of carbohydrates which once again cannot compete with the carb quality provided by fresh fruits and vegetables. So even though these supposedly nutritious foods contain some nourishment, they are not as nutrient dense as other Paleo approved foods.
Agents of gastric turbulence
Known for causing digestive inconsistencies, legumes are storehouses of anti nutrients called lectins. A natural defense mechanism for plants, lectins do wonder to protect plant species. They are low grade toxins that when consumed by humans can cause many inflammatory and gastrointestinal complications. Highly undesirable for our consumption, lectins are hard to break down.
While lectins are present in all plant and animal products, grains and legumes are a more concentrated source than others. Modern cooking methods of soaking, fermenting and sprouting promise to neutralize these toxic substances but their consumption can still lead to direct gastric issues like flatulence, bloating, cramps and other non gastric aggravations like headaches, painful joints and fatigue. Moreover, foods that do not agree with the digestive system compromise the body’s immune system as well.
Leaky gut syndrome
One of the more particular conditions associated with consuming lectins is known as leaky gut syndrome in which intestinal permeability is increased. The damage incurred by the lining of the intestines allows toxins and partially digested food particles to pass through its protective coating and enter the bloodstream. Here the unwanted components wreak havoc and may trigger an autoimmune reaction.
Leaky gut syndrome can be a convenient precursor to food sensitivities, chronic inflammation, asthma and even rheumatoid arthritis.
The problem of the three “P” constituents
Phytates, protease inhibitors and phytoestrogens- the three parts of the legume equation that have a role in altering natural digestive process as well as triggering hormonal imbalance. Phytates, in particular phytic acid, are blamed for the mal absorption and assimilation of important minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc- all important components to prevent osteoporosis and anemia. Protease inhibitors lead to slower digestion and inhibit optimal nutrient absorption while phtoestrogens interfere with hormonal equilibrium in the body. Resembling the female hormone estrogen, their presence can either stimulate or constrain hormonal production. Perhaps the most infamous example would be soy that is rich in phytoestrogens.
So why Paleo sacks Legumes?
So in a nutshell here’s why Paleo sacks legumes: when in their raw state, legumes are outright toxic. They are a comparably inferior source of dietary protein in the face of meats and eggs. They play second fiddle to fruits and vegetables as a dietary fiber and as such can be rendered unnecessary as the offered nutrients can be taken in from other natural and superior sources.