Unsure about legumes and seeds? You might want to take a closer look. These foods are not only nutrient-dense, they also work wonders in baked goods. If you want to boost the nutritional value of your baked goods, consider taking a break from traditional, nutrient-stripped refined flour options and try those packed with protein, fibre and nutrient-rich legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and seeds like chia seeds. Made into gluten-free, allergy-friendly flours, these ingredients are not only good for you, they also give baked goods like breads, buns and pastas a moist and soft texture and delicious flavour. It’s true—your sandwiches, mac and cheese and favourite spaghetti can all fill you with legume goodness!
Beans are a member of the legume family and contain a healthy amount of protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals. Bean flours helps make baked goods turn out moist and soft. Queen Street Bakery makes delicious bean-based loaves. Their White Bean & Millet Seed loaf, Romano Bean loaf and White Bean & Grape Skin loaves are all made with bean flour.
With a mild taste and smooth texture, white beans boast a wide range of nutritional benefits, such as cholesterol-lowering dietary fibre, quality plant-based protein and vital bone-building minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus. White beans are also a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B9 (folate), manganese, copper and iron.
Romano beans are a rich source of dietary fibre and quality protein, which is good for your metabolism and helps to keep you feeling satiated for longer periods of time. Their fibre content also helps to keep blood sugar levels in check. These beans help to reduce cholesterol, making them good for your heart. What’s not to love?
Like beans, lentils are a protein-rich, high-fibre member of the legume family. Lentils grow inside of pods and come in red, brown, black, and green varieties, making many dishes quite colourful. Lentils are an excellent natural source of vitamins and minerals. Research suggests they even protect your ticker.
100 grams of cooked lentils contain:
- 9.02 g of protein
- 7.9 g of fibre
The same 100 gram serving provides the following percentage of your daily intake (note the B vitamins!):
- 58% of vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 127% of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- 45% of vitamin B9 (folate)
- 36% of iron
- 70% of manganese
- 28% of phosphorus
- 14% of potassium
Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans) offer a range of health benefits. Like their legume cousins noted above, chickpeas are high in fibre and protein, and contain many key vitamins and bone-building minerals.
Let’s talk about minerals (and vitamin K which supports them). The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K in chickpeas are believed to contribute to bone health. A proper balance of the calcium and phosphate minerals is necessary for bone mineralization – consumption of too much phosphorus and too little calcium intake can result in bone loss. Vitamin K plays a key role in bone health as it helps improve calcium absorption which builds and repairs your bones. The potassium in chickpeas can help support healthy blood pressure levels.
And heart health pops up again over here. The fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6 in chickpeas support heart health. Fibre helps lower the amount of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in your blood, which can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
The connection between chickpeas and digestive health is noteworthy too. Due to their high fibre content, chickpeas (like other legumes) help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract. What’s more, chickpeas offer a source of fibre that is well-tolerated by some IBS patients. However, if you follow a low-FODMAP diet, you need to restrict chickpeas.
One cup of cooked chickpeas contains:
- 15 g of protein
- 13 g of dietary fiber
- 0 g of cholesterol (none!)
Chickpeas also contain vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, and selenium! They also contain excellent amounts of iron, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium.
As you probably know, chia seeds are often referred to as a “superfood,” a term used to describe foods that offer wonderful health benefits. Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L., and were a major food crop in Guatemala and Mexico. Historically, these seeds were cultivated as early as 3500 BC, and were offered to Aztec gods in religious ceremonies.
Chia seeds are rich in minerals like calcium, phosphorus and zinc. They are also rich in nutrients such as polyunsaturated fat, specifically omega-3 fatty acids (they are one of the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids), protein and fibre. There are claims that chia may help reduce appetite and weight, lower triglycerides and improve blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. What’s more, chia seeds are a complete protein, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by your body. The fibre, good fat and protein in chia seeds help you feel satisfied and satiated. This may be linked to their association with healthy weight loss.
Do not consume chia seeds dry as this can lead to choking—they need to be moistened in liquid, such as water or milk (including dairy-free milks) before consumption. They can be digested well in their whole form and don’t need to be consumed ground. The goodness within chia seeds may help prevent the development of certain chronic diseases. They contain a high content of linoleic and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty are associated with cardiovascular health, such as lower cholesterol, and blood pressure, decreased inflammation and blood clot prevention. The fibre in chia seeds may also help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent blood sugar spikes.
A 100 gram serving of chia seeds provides the following percentage of your daily intake:
- 136% of dietary fibre
- 83% of magnesium
- 63% of calcium
- 42% of iron
- 34% of protein
About the Author: Living with celiac disease, Lisa Cantkier is a writer and educator focused on nutrition and health.