Beans are one of the world’s healthiest options, especially for vegetarians looking to add more protein to their diets. Beans are a quality source of protein, iron, and fiber, which makes them a nutritional powerhouse. They are high in minerals and fiber, and the protein contains in beans does not have the added saturated fats that are often accompany animal proteins. From a single, one-cup serving of black beans you will get approximately 15 grams of fiber- well over half of the recommended daily intake of fiber! One serving of black beans also provides over 15 grams of protein (about one-third of your daily recommended intake). The combination of protein and fiber is one of the important aspects of the health benefits of beans, and explains why they are associated with healthy digestive tracts, cardiovascular systems, and blood glucose levels. Here are some of the researched health benefits of adding more beans to your diet.
Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
The fact that beans contain loads of protein AND fiber make them the perfect food for diabetics. Protein and fiber move through the gastrointestinal tract at a moderate rate, unlike dietary sugars that can move too quickly or dietary fats which can move too slowly. This regulation of the digestion of food and its movement through the GI tract prevents extremes in blood glucose levels, such as spikes and drops. A number of studies have shown a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes in people who eat diets high in fiber and plant foods, especially legumes.
Higher intakes of beans and other legumes is proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is due to the soluble fiber content, which lowers bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
Phytochemicals in beans, especially black beans, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are thought to be important in cancer prevention because chronic oxidative stress and inflammation are risk factors for the development of many different forms of cancer.
Now you might be thinking that suddenly eating a lot of beans may be great for your overall health, but not so great for your social life, since beans are often associated with the gaseousness that can occur after eating them. Our digestive enzymes are unable to breakdown the fiber and oligosaccharides (a certain type of carbohydrate) in beans, but the friendly bacteria that live in your digestive system are able to digest them and this can create gas. Here are a few tips to help reduce the gaseous effects of beans:
- Soak them: If you choose dry beans and soak them in water before cooking, it can get rid of a lot of the problematic oligosaccharides. Soak the beans for 12-24 hours, then discard the soaking water and rinse them with clean water before cooking.
- Choose beans with a less gaseous reputation: Adzuki and mung beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, and split peas create less gas than beans like lima, pinto, navy, and soy beans.
- Chew thoroughly: If you make sure you chew your beans thoroughly, your saliva will begin the digestive process and start to break down the oligosaccharides with its enzymes.
Now you are fully equipped to enjoy the health benefits of beans!
“The Benefits of Beans and Legumes.” Heart.org. American Heart Association, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.
“Black Beans.” World’s Healthiest Foods. The George Matejan Foundation, n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2016. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=2>.
Skerrett, Patrick J. “Recipe for Health: Cheap, Nutritious Beans – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. Harvard Health Publications, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.