Food & Nutrition
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Legumes for Diabetes Meal Plans

Tips for adding beans, peas & lentils to your diet

The humble legume – not so flashy, not so chic – shouldn’t be so humble. After all, no other vegetable has as much protein. Not to mention that beans, peas and lentils – collectively known as legumes – are brimming with dietary fiber, resistant starches, the B vitamin folate, and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. And to top it off, they’re nearly free of fat and sodium. (Be sure to check with your diabetes care team before making any changes to your meal plan.)

Research suggests that beans and other legumes may help improve blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease. Eating beans has also been associated with greater nutrient intake and lowered blood pressure and body weight.

Legumes in your diabetes meal plan

Be sure to count the carbs in beans, peas and lentils. A bonus when eating legumes is that a greater portion of the carbohydrates tends to be healthful dietary fibers. If you use therapeutic insulin, ask your healthcare provider whether to subtract fiber from your carb totals.

Resistant starches in legumes may be of particular interest to people living with diabetes. As their name implies, resistant starches are carbohydrates that resist digestion in the small intestine. Since they are not digested and absorbed, they do not contribute directly to blood sugar levels. Instead these starches make their way to the colon, where they serve as nutrition for our gut bacteria. As the bacteria consume the resistant starch, they produce compounds that may be good for the colon and may help support the body’s use of insulin.

Enjoy more legumes

Try some of these tricks for getting more legumes into your diet:

Legume

Calories

(g per ½ cup cooked)

Total Carbs (g per ½ cup cooked)

Fiber

(g per ½ cup cooked)

Protein

(g per ½ cup cooked)

Notes

Black beans have an earthy flavor and are a staple in Latin America.

114

20

7.5

8

Enjoy in Cuban black beans and rice, chili, salads and pureed into black bean brownies.
Black-eyed peas are small whitish beans with a black speck like an eye.

80

17

4

3

Try in salads with rice and diced vegetables.
Cannellini beans are large white kidney beans.

124

22

6

9

Mix with kale and other cooked greens or add to soups and enjoy with Italian flavors.
Garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas. They are round and have a nutty flavor.

134

22

6

7

Common in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Indian cooking. Puree to make hummus; roast for a snack or toss with vegetables and an olive oil and lemon juice dressing for a delicious salad.
Great Northern beans are mild and delicate white beans.

104

19

6

7

Common in French cassoulet and delicious in white chicken chili.
Kidney beans are shaped like a kidney.

112

20

6.5

8

Common in chili, salads and mixed with rice.
Lentils are very small and cook quickly, especially red lentils.

115

20

8

9

Red lentils are very soft and are best in soups and stews. The other colors hold their shape well and are good for salads and vegetarian pasta sauce.
Lima beans are often called butter beans for their buttery flavor.

105

20

5

6

Enjoy in soups, salads, stews and succotash.
Split peas look like tiny flat disks and closely resemble lentils.

116

21

8

8

Commonly used to make split pea soup.

Source: USDA/ARS National Nutrient Database

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE*, FAND, CHWC, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Diabetes Forecast and Kids Eat Right. She has a private practice in Newport News, VA. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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