Legumes, a superfood for pregnant women

Legumes, a superfood for pregnant women

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Legumes are one of the fundamental pillars of the Mediterranean diet. They are a source of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but above all, excellent quality proteins if they are combined with cereals. In addition, they are an extraordinary source of complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber, while being low in fat. Legumes are a superfood for pregnant women due to its high nutrient density, that is, with many micronutrients but few calories.

During pregnancy, the future mother has to follow, as in other moments of her life, a healthy and balanced diet, and the Legumes are particularly beneficial for their nutritional composition.

Protein nutritional needs are increased due to its involvement in the formation of new structures in the baby (organs, muscles ...), so the contribution of essential amino acids that can be obtained from legumes is ideal. Specifically, the combination of legumes - deficient in methionine - and cereals - deficient in lysine -, reaches a biological value similar to that of animal protein, while it contains hardly any fat or cholesterol. In particular, soy is the legume that provides the best quality protein.

The main energy contribution in legumes, in addition to protein, are complex carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates are broken down into simpler carbohydrate units in the gastrointestinal tract, gradually releasing energy. The glucose released is absorbed slowly and insulin is released in a relatively controlled manner, which is very helpful in avoiding imbalances in glucose levels. This fact makes legumes an ideal food even in cases where gestational diabetes has been diagnosed. Legumes also provide a feeling of satiety that lasts after ingestion, also helping to control the dreaded nausea.

Legumes are also a source of folic acid, potassium, iron, magnesium and some essential fatty acids. Iron is one of the minerals whose needs are increased during pregnancy, given the increase in maternal and fetal blood volume, so the extra supply of iron from legumes, despite being non-heme iron, is a point very in favor of its consumption. For maximum benefit, it can be combined with foods rich in vitamin C, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits, in the same intake.

On the other hand, a controversial benefit is its fiber content. The soluble fiber present in legumes helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, but also, as it passes through the intestine, it can generate undesirable flatulence. Soluble fiber is made up of indigestible carbohydrates, that is, those that reach the entire large intestine. The bacteria present in this part of the gastrointestinal tract use them by fermenting them and generating gases. To avoid this and slightly break down these indigestible carbohydrates, it may be useful to abruptly break the boil while the legumes are cooking, either by removing them from the heat or by adding cold water.

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