Showcasing the Mediterranean diet and Asian diet  
 
 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legumes also contain high amounts of soluble fiber, which has been shown to have many health benefits. For example, soluble fiber helps slow the rate at which glucose (blood sugar) enters your bloodstream—so you'll have more energy and better concentration for longer periods of time. The soluble fiber in legumes has also been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels.

In addition to carbohydrates, protein and fiber, beans and other legumes are also packed with many essential vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health, including zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals are important for maintaining healthy muscle tone, combating fatigue and promoting energy and endurance. Legumes are also a good source of iron (which helps deliver oxygen to all your cells) and B vitamins (which are important for a number of bodily functions including the maintenance of healthy nerve cells and strengthening your immune system).

The joy of soy

One of the most healthful types of legumes is the phytochemical rich soybean. In a recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, reviewed 38 separate clinical studies on soy and found that people who substituted soy protein for about half of the meat protein in their diet reduced their LDL cholesterol by 12.9 percent and triglycerides by 10.5 percent. According to the lead author of the report, Dr. James Anderson, the results suggest that a diet that regularly includes soy has the potential to reduce heart disease risk 25 to 30 percent.

Other studies have shown that soy can protect against breast and prostate cancer and provide natural hormonal support for women during menopause (that's why hot flashes and night sweats are rarely seen in countries where soy is a staple food, such as Japan).

Common legumes

Black beans
Black-eyed peas
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Great Northern beans
Green beans
Green peas
Kidney beans
Lentils
Lima beans
Mung beans
Navy beans
Pinto beans
Snow peas (mange tout)
Soybeans
Split peas


Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a rich source of unsaturated fats that help lower LDL cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart disease. A study by Loma Linda University scientists on 34,000 people over six years found that those who consumed a handful of nuts four or more times a week had 50 percent fewer heart attacks than people who ate nuts less than once a week.

Nuts and seeds also contain many other health-enhancing compounds. For example, they are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), magnesium, and zinc. Nuts also contain high amounts of an essential amino acid called arginine. This special protein has been shown to help relax blood vessels and make blood less sticky which, in turn, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. And certain nuts and seeds—particularly walnuts, pecans and linseeds (flaxseeds)—are a good source of health promoting omega-3 fat.


Common nuts and seeds

Almonds
Brazil nuts
Cashews
Chestnuts
Hazelnuts
Linseeds (flaxseeds)
Macadamia nuts
Pistachios
Peanuts (actually a legume not a nut, but has the same nutritional profile as nuts and used in the same way)
Pecans
Pine nuts
Poppy seeds
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts


When legumes are combined with grains in a meal it forms a complete protein (which means it contains all of the essential amino acids or building blocks of protein). Here are some delicious ways of combining legumes with grain foods: dhal (lentil curry) and naan bread, beans with pasta, lentil or bean burger, bean risotto, baked beans on toast, chickpea stew served over couscous, bean dip and baked corn chips, falafel kebab, beans with rice, lentil or bean soup served with bread, hummus (Middle Eastern chickpea dip) and pita bread.
Tofu is incredibly versatile because it has little taste of its own (but a delightful texture), which means you can mix it with grains, vegetables, and seasonings and it soaks up their flavor. It comes in two distinct varieties—soft (silken) and firm. Firm tofu can be diced and sautéed in stir-fry dishes, and can replace meat or poultry in casseroles, soups, and stews. Silken tofu can be used to replace soft cheese like ricotta in pasta dishes. It also adds creaminess to smoothies and when blended or puréed, it serves as a base for soups, sauces, dips, salad dressings and desserts.
Soy burgers are a nutritious and delicious substitute for beef burgers. Serve them on a bun topped with fresh tomatoes, crispy lettuce, pickles and your favorite sauce. There are lots of different store-bought varieties of soy burger patties, so experiment to find your favorite, or make your own.
Use soy frankfurters like you would a normal hot dog frankfurter and put them in a bun with all your favorite toppings.
Use soy bacon anywhere you would normally use bacon, such as in cooked breakfasts, sandwiches and diced in salads.

Adding a handful of cashews or slivered almonds to an Asian-style stir-fry, braise or noodle dish makes a wonderful crunchy addition.

Nuts go well with many pasta and risotto dishes. Pesto, for example, is a delicious sauce which originates from Genoa in Italy. It's made up of a mix of fresh basil, nuts (usually pine nuts), Parmesan cheese, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It makes an incredibly delicious creamy sauce that can be tossed through pasta or spread on bread or toasts. Walnuts also make a rustic addition to pasta.

Toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over a stir-fry add a wonderful flavor and texture.
Crushed peanuts make a tasty and crunchy garnish for Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes, and peanuts are one of the main ingredients in Indonesian peanut sauce.
Nuts add a flavor and texture boost to salads.
Crushed nuts go perfectly sprinkled over oatmeal, fruit yogurt or fruit salad.

Whole and crushed nuts and seeds can be added to your own home-made muesli.

A handful of crushed almonds or pistachios go wonderfully sprinkled over a Middle Eastern pilaf.

 


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