Is a lentil a protein or a carb?

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FOOD, per 100g K CALS PROTEIN FAT CARBS FIBRE SUGARS
Kidney beans 127 8.67 22.80 6.4 0.32
Chickpeas/ Garbanzo beans 164 8.86 27.42 7.6 4.8
Lentils 116 9.02 20.13 7.9 1.80
Cabbage – boiled 23 1.27 5.51 1.9 2.79
Boiled Prunes 107 0.96 28.08 3.1 24.98
Carrots – boiled 35 0.76 8.22 3.0 3.45
Boiled potatoes w. skins 87 1.87 20.13 1.8 0.87
Chicken, roasted w. meat and skin 223 23.97 13.39 0 0 0
Oats, boiled 71 2.54 12.00 1.7 0.27
Canned Baked beans 105 4.80 20.49 5.5 7.78
Boiled peanuts 318 13.50 22.01 21.26 8.80 2.47
Brazil nuts – raw 656 19.05 88.32 16.32 10.0 3.10

I am often asked if pulses such as lentils count as a source of protein. 1  As can be seen in the above table, lentils or kidney beans do indeed contain more protein than do carrots, cabbage or potatoes, but it can also be seen that they contain much less protein than the chicken, which I deliberately chose as containing the skin as well as the meat, which will lower the protein content.

Not only do pulses contain considerably less protein than animal, bird or fish sources of protein, the protein in the pulse is incomplete.  A protein from a living source contains all the amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that we need each day in order to be healthy.  These amino acids we cannot make in our bodies from other amino acids.  Proteins from pulses are particularly short in the amino acid, methionine.  If following a strict vegan diet, then grains contain methionine, but are short of lysine, so eating a lentil curry with rice, for example, will give a better balance of essential amino acids.  Apparently Asian Indians eat a lot of sesame seeds, also a good source of methionine, to balance out their high intake of pulses.

Eating pulses takes some preparation.  According to the rhyme

Beans, beans are good for ya heart,

The more ya eat, the more ya fart;

The more ya fart, the more ya eat,

The more ya sit on the toilet seat.2

Needless to say, there are variations on this ditty.  And, for once, the rhymes are based on truth because the sugars in beans are the indigestible raffinose sugars, which the human digestive system lacks the enzymes to cope with.  So soaking the beans overnight, throwing away that water, giving them a good long boil, then throwing away that water will help things become more peaceful following a bean meal.  As mentioned a few blogs back, adding mustard seeds to the cooking water will also help things.  As for sitting on the toilet seat – well it can be seen that beans are a very good source of fibre, comparing favourably with even the prune.  And the fibre in beans is both soluble and insoluble – briefly: a bulker and a scrubber.

To get around the long preparation necessary to eat a bowl of chickpeas, it would seem obvious to buy them canned.  The problem with buying a tin of chickpeas is that tins are lined with a toxic substance called Bisphenol A, shortened to BPA.  BPA leaches from the lining of the tin and into the food, in this case, the beans.  We do not want BPA in our bodies because, when there, it is a xeno oestrogen, or foreign oestrogen, causing excessive and toxic oestrogen to build up in the body leading to illness in the long term, but in the short term a fat arse and thighs in both men and women and the dreaded MOOBS in men – plus a lowering of libido.  It will also contribute towards cellulite.  So no tinned beans, then.

I included peanuts because they are actually a legume – or bean – and this comes as news to people.  But as can be seen, in nutritional content, they do seem to lie between the bean and the nut.

To summarise: beans have more protein in them than do other vegetables, they are also high in starch.  But the protein in a bean is not as good as the protein from an animal or fish source in either quantity or quality.  And, because of the high starch content of beans, if following a low carb diet, a bean counts as a starch and not a protein.  Provided pulses are prepared with care, they are an excellent source of starch and fibre.  And, especially if the preparation is skipped, they are also an endless source of amusement.

  1. Here is a link to the USDA nutrient data bank from whence I got the above figures: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list []
  2. http://www.heptune.com/fartpoem.html []

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