Once you've been diagnosed with diabetes, it's extremely important to bring your blood sugar levels down to a healthy level. This often requires a significant change in diet and lifestyle: moving away from foods that are high in sugar, saturated fats and glycemic index (GI). Legumes, including beans and pulses, fit all these requirements and are fantastic way to help balance blood sugar. As an added benefit, they’re also great sources of protein and iron.
One of the main reasons why beans and pulses are a great addition to a diabetic diet is their low glycemic index. This means the carbohydrates they contain are released slowly and steadily, so you don’t get spikes and troughs in your blood sugar. The other benefit of low GI foods is that they keep you feeling fuller for longer, which reduces cravings and helps manage weight. Weight management is often a difficult but important aspect of diabetes prevention and treatment.
Legumes are also naturally low in fat and calories, and full of fibre. In fact, one cup of cooked lentils or dry peas contains about half of the daily fibre recommendation for adults! Foods higher in fibre content usually help people feel satiated at mealtime, reducing the urge for those unhealthy late night snacks.
Add to this the fact that most varieties of beans and pulses are also high in iron, protein, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins, and it’s easy to understand why they’re considered an essential part of a healthy diet.
Because of their many health benefits, legumes have been a popular part of people’s diets for thousands of years. Archaeologists have discovered traces of pulse production around the Ravi River, the seat of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation, dating circa 3300BC. Evidence of lentil cultivation has been found in Egyptian pyramids and dry pea seeds have been discovered that are believed to date back to the Stone Age – more than 5,000 years ago!
Incorporating beans and pulses into your diet is easy. They make a wonderful addition to almost any dish. In Middle Eastern cuisine, chickpeas are blended together with tahini and season with garlic to make hummus. In India, lentils and kidney beans are used to create spicy dhals and other delicious vegetarian meals. Beans and pulses also feature heavily in Mexican and Italian cuisine.
One tip: soak and rinse before you cook them… It’ll save you from embarrassing sound effects after your meal!