Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the healthier you become! Research continues to show that plant-based diets, including those that emphasize plant-based proteins such as legumes, are associated with a decreased risk of disease. Legumes include kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (or chickpeas), lima beans, split peas, lentils, and edamame (soybeans), among others. Legumes are not only an excellent source of protein, they are also very high in fiber. The magical protein + fiber combination in legumes is the reason why they are so beneficial to the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, and for the regulation of blood glucose. Dietary sugar moves quickly through the digestive system, while dietary fat moves slowly. But both protein and fiber move through at a moderate pace, which regulates the breakdown of foods and eases the burden of digestion from any one part of the system. Potentially harmful spikes in blood sugar are also avoided because of this moderate digestive pace. Scientific studies show that incorporating legumes into the diets of patients with type 2 diabetes improved glycemic control and lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease. Legumes are a great source of both types of fiber (soluble and insoluble – for additional information, see Dr. Foodle’s in-depth look at fiber!) The amazing fiber content in beans can help you feel full for longer, assisting in weight management, and also helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, which means that consuming more leads to a decreased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
The benefits of beans are not limited to the fiber and protein content. Legumes provide a wide array of other nutrients, such as iron, zinc, potassium, and folate. The high content of vitamins and minerals, coupled with the low-calorie content of beans, mean that they are very nutritionally dense. They are incredibly versatile, and can be eaten at any meal. Rice and beans is a staple meal around the world; beans are even traditionally served at breakfast in some countries!
Dr. Foodle on Bean Gas
Consuming a lot of legumes may come at a price for some people. There are molecules in beans that human digestive enzymes cannot break down called oligosaccharides. If you avoid eating beans because it causes gaseousness, Dr. Foodle has a few tips for you:
Dr. Foodle’s Bean Breakfast Bowl
Black Beans + Scrambled Eggs + Pepper Jack Cheese + Avocado Slices + Salsa
“Black Beans.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web.
Jenkins, David J. A., Et Al. “Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Arch Intern Med Archives of Internal Medicine 172.21 (2012): 1653. Web.
Skerrett, Patrick J. “Recipe for Health: Cheap, Nutritious Beans – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. Harvard Medical School, 30 Nov. 2012. Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.