In advising our members, we filter thousands of research and fads, relying only on the credible worldwide science available for better health and weight reduction. Here we chose the interesting research of Dr. Michael Greger. Yet, no research replaces your own doctor's advice.
- Beans are legumes that are nutrient-dense, easy-to-prepare, and economical.
- Loaded with plant-based protein, beans can make an excellent alternative for meat in vegetarian and vegan diets.
- Beans are rich in folate, which is essential during pregnancy. It aids in making healthy red blood cells and preventing neural tube defects in a fetus.
- Eating food with a low glycemic index such as beans will help normalize blood glucose, blood insulin, and body weight.
- Beans are rich in polyphenols, organic compounds that have antioxidative properties.
- Polyphenols can neutralize harmful free radicals that would damage the cells and increase the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
- More than anything, preconceived notions may cause people’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans.
- The nutritional attributes of beans outweigh the potential for transitory discomfort.
- Eating beans can help create a feeling of fullness and satisfaction.
- Daily consumption of beans can help increase lifespan, thereby reducing the risk of death by 8%.
- Canned beans contain 1000mg sodium, while cooked beans contain less sodium amounting to 422mg.
- Draining and rinsing canned beans can get rid of as much as 45-50% sodium.
- High amounts of fiber in beans serve as food for gut microbiota or good bacteria in the intestine.
What are beans?
Beans, or Phaseolus vulgaris, are legumes known for their exceptionally high nutrient content and low fat and calories. Beans can aid weight reduction due to their high protein and fiber content, keeping a person satiated for a more extended period. Commonly consumed beans include kidney beans, navy beans, soybeans, and chickpeas.
Beans are inexpensive yet excellent sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They contain enormous amounts of polyphenols (antioxidants that boost heart health, stabilize blood sugar, and protect against various life-threatening diseases). Not only that, but they also boast a wide array of flavors and textures, making them famous in Asian and Western cuisines.
What are polyphenols?
Polyphenols are organic compounds naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. They are packed with antioxidants, which are essential in reducing inflammation, neutralizing harmful free radicals, and lowering the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
What Are The Healthiest Beans?
There are about 400 varieties of beans all over the world. This article briefly explores 5 of the most common types and their nutritional value. However, it is essential to note that the nutrient content of beans varies depending upon the variety purchased.
In addition, although beans promote heart health, keep in mind that canned beans have a lot more sodium than fresh, dried, or frozen ones. Eating too many high-sodium foods can increase the risk of heart disease.
Pinto beans are budget-friendly, easy-to-prepare, and nutrient-packed legumes — no wonder why they are the most popular dried beans in the United States, particularly in Mexican cuisine. Beige with reddish-brown specks when dried and plain light brown or pale pink when cooked, pinto beans burst into earthy, nutty flavors and are commonly used in soups, stews, and rice dishes.
Lima beans are so-called “butter beans” due to their starchy, creamy butter texture when cooked. It has a delicate flavor that complements a wide variety of dishes.
Although lima beans are very promising, just like the other type of beans, raw lima beans contain a compound called linamarin, which turns into hydrogen cyanide. When ingested, it can cause detrimental effects to the consumer, such as toxicity, which can be fatal. Good thing that lima beans lose this lethal compound once boiled for about 10 minutes.
Kidney beans, named for their color and shape, come in two varieties: light red and dark red. They boast a slightly sweet flavor and a soft texture when cooked. A famous ingredient in chili con carne, kidney beans is also great in soup, salad, and creative dishes like burgers. It also takes an integral part of the cuisine in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Mung beans are small, green beans and are incredibly versatile. Mung beans are typically used in making salads, soups, and stir-fried dishes. Interestingly, studies show that these small but terrible legumes have a unique role in preventing degenerative diseases.
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are packed with nutrients and have an enormous amount of plant-based protein, making them an excellent replacement for meat in vegetarian and vegan diets. However, it does not contain all the essential amino acids, particularly methionine. To make up for the deficit, best pair chickpeas with another protein source, such as whole grains.
|Nutrients||Pinto Beans||Lima Beans||Kidney Beans||Mung Beans||Chickpeas|
|Carbs||45 g||31.5 g||40 g||37.8 g||44.7 g|
|Fat||1 g||1.3 g||1 g||0.8 g||4.2 g|
|Protein||15 g||10.7 g||15.6||14.2 g||14.4 g|
|Sugars||0 g||2.3 g||0.6 g||4 g||7.8 g|
|Fiber||15 g||7.6 g||13.4 g||15.4 g||15.4 g|
|Sodium||2 mg||12.5 mg||396 mg||4.0 mg||–|
Can Eating Beans Help Lower Blood Pressure?
Beans, particularly chickpeas, have been used to control high blood pressure and diabetes for thousands of years. Studies show that daily consumption of beans can decrease low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (also known as “bad cholesterol”) levels. The soluble fiber in beans attaches to cholesterol particles and takes them out of the body through excretion. Furthermore, replacing grains with chickpeas for five months shows reduced cholesterol levels by around 20%, almost reaching the 150mg/100ml healthy target.
Most of the subjects have a 15% reduction in total cholesterol. Its consistent performance during long-term administration indicates an absolute benefit and shows that chickpeas are superior to many cholesterol-lowering medications.
In a randomized crossover trial, two servings of beans daily lowered cholesterol levels drastically. Many participants transitioned below the range in which statin drugs or cholesterol-lowering drugs are typically prescribed.
Can Beans Aid In Weight Loss?
Legume-based meals are more satiating than animal-based meals due to their high fiber and protein content, helping weight management.
Generally, beans have a glycemic index (GI) of less than 55, which is considered low. This means that the body takes longer to digest and affects blood sugar levels.
Since the body wants to finish digesting before sending a signal for the next meal, the body detects starch in the small intestine, consequently slowing down the stomach empties rate. Eating foods with low GI, such as beans, trigger this potent mechanism resulting in a sustained delaying effect on hunger or emptying of the stomach.
Beans for better digestion
Besides helping manage weight, the high fiber content in beans also serves as food for gut microbiota or good bacteria. Interestingly, although fiber resists digestion in the small intestine, it gets fermented in the large intestine. Fermented fiber acts as a food for good bacteria located in the colon.
Further, a study where people fed with about 1 cup of canned chickpeas per day for three weeks showed that high ammonia-producing bacteria decreased in nearly a half. This indicates that chickpeas can modulate the intestinal microbiome to promote intestinal health in a span of a few weeks.
Complex carbs do not raise blood sugar levels
Although beans contain carbohydrates, they are considered complex carbohydrates and are deemed low in GI. They do not cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels as complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable for a more extended period.
Can Beans Help Increase Lifespan?
As powerful as it may seem, beans can promote survival in older people from across the globe. Scientists explored among five cohorts in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Australia. Of all the food items utilized, only the 20-gram or two tablespoons of daily legume intake resulted in plausible, consistent, and statistically significant data. Thus, it is associated with a longer lifespan, about an 8% reduced risk of death, across all the populations combined.
Regardless of its astounding claim, reports identified fear of flatulence as why people are not raving about beans. However, contrary to this belief, a study shows that people’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated.
Figure 2. Percentage of all reports indicating gastrointestinal symptoms by food type in two randomized cross-over studies
The majority of people reported no symptoms at all. However, a few percent did experience increased flatulence in the controlled and experimental group after eating ½ cup of beans every day for months (see graph 2). After a week or two of daily bean consumption, 70% of people who experienced flatulence returned to normal after a week or two. Therefore, preconceived notions about beans, such as the expectation of flatulence from eating beans, may have caused digestive distress or increased flatulence.
Several studies and the latest dietary guidelines support the benefits of a plant-based diet, particularly legumes, in the reduction of chronic disease risks.
Daily consumption of beans may have initially resulted in increased flatulence in some people; however, doctors emphasize that it will decrease over time. It is also important to note that the nutritional attributes of beans in the diet outweigh the gastric discomfort. The long-term health benefits of bean consumption are promising, and indeed including beans in the daily diet can increase the chances of living life on earth longer.
Lower risks of heart attack with daily beans consumption
More than preventing the onset of diabetes and obesity, beans boast its ability to promote cardiovascular health as well.
A study showed a lower risk of non-fatal heart by 38% attack when the participants consumed a cup of cooked beans daily. This proves that plant-specific compounds can have a remarkable impact on health and provide therapeutic health benefits, such as their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, blood cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering ability. For instance, those without legumes in their daily diet may quadruple the odds of suffering high blood pressure.
96% of Americans do not make the recommended daily beans intake
The US federal government recommends about a half cup of beans per day, counting them as both a protein and a vegetable considering their nutritional value. While being naturally low in sodium, beans are excellent sources of fiber, folate, plant protein, vitamin B1, plant iron, and other minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper.
Sadly, about 96% of Americans do not make the minimum recommended intake of beans (see table 1) and miss many health benefits beans have to offer.
As small and insignificant as they seem, beans offer numerous health benefits that improve one’s quality of life, such as promoting gastric health, aiding weight management, and reducing the risk of several diseases.
Bean consumption presents a wide array of health benefits that will ultimately improve the quality of one’s life, even those not born yet. Increased amounts of folate are essential in making healthy red blood cells and preventing neural tube defects in a fetus during pregnancy.
Which Is Better: Canned Beans Or Dried Beans?
Determining which weighs more between time and money is a prerequisite to identifying better between canned beans and dried beans.
Canned beans are convenient and take a lot less time to cook as compared to dried beans. Interestingly, regardless of the cooking time, both are more or less the same nutrition-wise, except that canned contains much added sugar and 100x more sodium than dried beans. However, this shouldn’t be much of a worry since draining and rinsing the canned beans can reduce about 45-50% of its sodium content.
Although any type of bean is economical, dried beans are cheaper and more affordable.
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