Rainbow Diet

The health benefits of pulses

Pulses, or legumes, are very important ingredients in the colourful Mediterranean diet, the Rainbow Diet, for a number of reasons.

1. Pulses help control blood glucose and blood lipid levels. They help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

2. Pulses are high in phytoestrogen – they help block human oestrogen from receptor sites in hormonally-driven cancer.

3. Pulses are also high in soluble fibre. This aids the growth and division of commensal gut bacteria, boosting the immune response.

4. Pulses are rich in protein, folate and many minerals like potassium and magnesium making them extremely nutritious. Unfortunately, most pulses are incomplete sources of amino acids.

Pulses feature prominently in the Rainbow Diet

Pulses are edible seeds that grow in pods. A great source of protein, they are low in fat and have low GI levels. In the UK in 1900 we derived more than 30 per cent of our protein from pulses; now it is less than 2 per cent.

Not so in the Rainbow Diet. Pulses still feature prominently; for example lentils, chick peas (hummus), red kidney beans, peanuts and dried peas and beans. Storage was easy around the Mediterranean for these sources of protein – they could be dried, kept for long periods and then soaked in water overnight before use and/or boiled.

The fibre in pulses is an important constituent and controls the slow release of carbohydrate. 2014 research showed that a daily helping of lentils was linked with extremely low levels of diabetes.

* In diabetes – A meta-review of pulses in diabetes (1) showed that they helped manage blood glucose levels, manage blood lipid levels, helped reduce body weight and increased cardiovascular health.

* In prostate, breast, ovarian or endometrial cancers for example – With oestrogen-driven cancers, pulses are an excellent source of phytoestrogens that can block receptor sites from attack by dangerous oestradiol preventing it binding there. Unfortunately phytoestrogens do not bind tightly, and wash through the body quickly, so you really need to eat them on a daily basis.

* Immune system – Furthermore, pulses being sources of soluble fibre are much loved by your friendly gut bacteria. The soluble fibre collects in the liquid in the gut forming a gel that is loved by commensal bacteria. One study showed that people who consumed the highest level of pulses has the best immune systems.

Some health commentators are concerned about phytic acid in pulses, which they claim can block mineral absorption. When boiling, it is easy to skim off the physic acid sitting on top of the water, if that’s your concern.

(It should also be noted that soya, in any form, has no place in the colourful Mediterranean Diet. It has nothing to do with the regions around the coast of the Mediterranean.)

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist who wrote the first edition of the Rainbow Diet way back in 2005 added, “There is another great benefit too. When pulses grow, they are nitrogen-fixers. This means that they are perfect in organic crop rotation programmes. About 18% of the food where I live in the South of France is organic. And pulses don’t need fertilisers or herbicides. They generate their own healthy micro-environment.

For all the reasons above, people should try to eat more pulses.”

Go to: The Rainbow Diet

1. http://www.canadianjournalofdiabetes.com/article/S1499-2671(16)30092-2/abstract

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