What do we know about the health benefits of beans?
As a kid growing up with six other siblings and because money was tight, there would always be plenty of vegetables and legumes to eat at supper time. We rarely had much in the way of meat, chicken, or fish, and what was there would be small portions. So I pretty much grew up on a plant-based diet.
Apart from a lot of mashed potato, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and cauliflower, there were plenty of beans going around. We'd have Lima beans, broad beans, butter beans, and green string beans. After leaving home, I became a fully-fledged vegetarian.
Though beans and vegetables filled our bellies, looking back, you could say that these leguminous plants were considered culinary outcasts. Nobody understood much about these little legumes back then, and there was little in the way of research.
But today they are everywhere and often used in soups, stews, and salads.
They may be small but beans are mighty powerful
You could say that these particular plant pulses are little chemical factories with lots of biologically active substances in them. And there's good evidence that by eating them you may well be protected against cancer.
The healing benefits of beans can help:
- lower your cholesterol
- stabilize your blood sugar levels
- help with diabetes
- they can help reduce your risk of heart disease
- reduce your risk of breast and prostate cancers
Beans are the ultimate power food because they are low in fat and high in protein and fiber as well as contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Not bad for the small but mighty bean.
The Health Benefits Of Beans
1. Green beans help with constipation
Because of their high fiber content, green beans (like many other fiber-rich vegetables) will help your digestion by pushing matter through. Make sure to add green beans to your daily diet.
2. Eating beans can lower cholesterol
Because beans come packed with soluble fiber, the very same gummy stuff found in other foods like apples, barley, and oat bran, they can also help lower cholesterol. In your digestive tract, soluble fibers trap cholesterol-containing bile, removing it from your body before it's absorbed.
Eating a cup of cooked beans a day can lower your total cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in six weeks. And while 10 percent may not seem much, you have to keep in mind that every 1% reduction in total cholesterol means a 2 percent decrease in your risk for heart disease. Beans can lower cholesterol in just about anyone; but the higher your cholesterol, the better they work.
It would also appear that all legumes can help lower cholesterol levels, even the canned baked beans.
Beans also play another less direct role in keeping your cholesterol levels down. They are incredibly satisfying, so when you eat plant pulses, you'll have less appetite for other fattier foods. And eating less fat is critical for keeping cholesterol levels low. All leguminous plants are high in fiber, and fiber-rich food automatically makes you feel fuller.
3. Beans may help control blood sugar
As you probably know, keeping your blood sugar levels steady is the key to preventing diabetes at bay. You may or may not know just how amazing beans are for people with diabetes. Eating between ½ and ¼ cup of beans a day can show significant improvement in blood sugar control. Beans are super-rich in complex carbohydrates.
And unlike sugary foods which dump sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream all at once, complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly. It means that the glucose enters your bloodstream a little at a time, helping to keep blood sugar levels nice and steady.
Also, beans are high in soluble fiber, and a diet high in soluble fiber causes your body to produce more insulin receptor sites - tiny docks whereby insulin molecules can latch on. More insulin gets into individual calls where it's needed most, and less is present in your bloodstream where can cause problems.
4. Beans may lower the risk of cancer
Because beans are low in fat and rich in fiber, they are some of the best cancer-fighting foods (see here for more details). And the reason for this is that beans contain compounds such as lignans, isoflavones, saponins, phytic acid, and protease inhibitors that are known to inhibit cancer cell growth. These compounds, while they might appear strange in names, keep your healthy cells from turning cancerous and in doing so, prevent cancer from growing.
Soybeans, (unlike other legumes) are also rich in genistein and daidzein, two chemical compounds that may play a role in preventing cancer. Known as phytoestrogens, these are weaker versions of the estrogen that we produce naturally. Some experts believe that these compounds may help to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer by blocking the activity of testosterone and estrogen, male and female sex hormones that, over time can spur the growth of cancerous tumors.
If you consider that Hispanic women have about half the risk of getting breast cancer as western women, it's little wonder that beans are eaten almost daily in many Hispanic households. Beans are a significant source of fiber for Hispanic women who get nearly 25 percent of their dietary fiber from beans, twice the national average of westerners.
5. Heart benefits of beans
Beans were once called the poor man's meat, but a more accurate name would be a healthy man's meat. Just like red meat, leguminous plants come packed with protein, something which meat lovers still can't seem to grasp. And unlike meat beans are light in fat, particularly those dangerous artery-clogging saturated fats. To give you an example, a cup of adzuki beans contains less than 1 gram of fat, and less than 1% of that comes from saturated fat.
Beans are also a great source of essential vitamins and minerals. A half-cup of black beans contains 128 micrograms or 23% of the daily value (DV) for folate, a B vitamin that may lower your risk of heart disease. The same cup has 2 milligrams of iron, 11% of the DV, and 300 milligrams of potassium, or 9% of the DV. Potassium is a mineral that is renowned for helping control blood pressure naturally.
Getting the most benefits of eating beans
- Go for the fiber. While virtually all dried beans are excellent sources of fiber, some varieties stand out from the pack. Black beans, for example, contain 6 grams of fiber in a half-cup serving. Chickpeas, kidney beans, and Lima beans all weigh in at about 7 grams of fiber and black-eyed peas are among the best with about 8 grams of fiber.
- Enjoy them canned. If you don't have time to soak and cook dried beans, go for the canned variety. Canned beans are just as good for you as the dried kind. But because canned beans are higher in sodium, you should drain and rinse them thoroughly before using them.
- Use gas-deflating herbs and spices. I'm sure you've all been a little uncomfortable and embarrassed at times when gas got the better of you from reaping the benefits of beans. Try spicing them with a pinch of summer savory or a teaspoon of ground ginger. These herbs and spices may help reduce the bean's gas-producing effects. Soaking them overnight (and throwing that water away) will also get rid of the gas.
Try out these delicious beans recipes
- green beans almandine
- black beans tortilla casserole
- spicy black beans and apricots
- crockpot maple baked beans
- Middle Eastern black bean ful
FAQ about the benefits of eating beans
Can I eat beans raw?
It's not recommended to eat raw beans, as some of them can be toxic in that form. you may also get an upset stomach and diarrhea.
Do beans have cholesterol?
No. cholesterol comes from animal products. Beans have 0 cholesterol and the7 make a great addition to your diet if you're fighting high cholesterol.
Does eating beans lower cholesterol?
Yes, as mentioned above, adding beans to your diet on a regular basis can help lower cholesterol.
Please take note that the information on this page is designed for educational purposes only. This information is by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider.