Beans are the major source of protein for vegetarians. Beans contain complex carbohydrates which are needed for gut health, vitamins and minerals for day to day functions and polyphenols which are very good anti-oxidants. Therefore, it is important to incorporate beans and legumes in our diet for their high nutritional value.
But, along-with nutrients, beans also contain some anti-nutrients which are produced as a natural defense mechanism in these plants. Phytates, lectins, protease inhibitors are the anti-nutrients which are found in beans.
Phytates (phytic acid) if not removed can affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Protease inhibitors, these are the enzyme inhibitors which means they bind with the enzymes which help in digestion of proteins but if these anti-nutrients will be present in food, then the proteins will not be digested properly, and we all eat beans to get proteins (Thompson 2019).
Lectins can bind to the receptors in the intestinal tract and can alter the mucosal integrity of intestinal cells, can thus cause ‘leaky gut syndrome’, immune reactivity, can also bind to red blood cells and can increase the inflammation in the body which further increases the risk of allergies and auto-immune disorders (Thompson 2019).
But, the good thing is anti-nutrients can be removed by soaking beans in water (as shown in my previous blog on phytates) and pressure cooking found to be the most effective method (among all the cooking methods) to eliminate lectins. Among different heat processing methods such as boiling, cooking, autoclaving or extrusion cooking, autoclaving (based on high temperature and under pressure which is equivalent to pressure cooker in domestic kitchens – autoclaving/pressure cooking is found to be most effective in removing lectins. Pressure cooking makes beans softer and other nutrients become more bioavailable and body can make use of nutrients (Revilla 2015).
1. Revilla I (2015) Chapter 40 – Impact of Thermal Processing on Faba Bean (Vicia faba) Composition. In: Preedy V, editor. Processing and Impact on Active Components in Food. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 337-343.
2. Preet K, Punia D (2000) Antinutrients and Digestibility (in vitro) of Soaked, Dehulled and Germinated Cowpeas. Nutrition and Health 14: 109-117.
3. Thompson HJ (2019) Improving human dietary choices through understanding of the tolerance and toxicity of pulse crop constituents. Current Opinion in Food Science.
4. LAL N, BARCCHIYA, J., RAYPURIYA, N., & SHIURKAR, G. (2017) ANTI-NUTRITION IN LEGUMES: EFFECT IN HUMAN HEALTH AND ITS ELIMINATION. Innovative Farming 2: 32-36.