The bean crop appears to have been known to ancient Greeks and Romans. Since those times beans haven’t lost their popularity and are now the second most common legume in the world after soybeans, far ahead of peas. And for many Southern nations, beans are an important ingredient in most national dishes.
Interesting fact: At the excavations of Pompeii a clay vessel was found containing bean seeds. And the oldest Chinese chronicles, dating back to 2800 B.C., already mention beans. Amazing!
Beans – Nutrition facts
Beans have moderate energy content, great protein value, medium carbs and a pretty good portion of fibre. Beans of any type have a low glycemic index.
Beans – Good news
Beans promote a healthy heart, balance your glucose and insulin levels, and are a good source of plant protein.
1Promote heart health
People who regularly consume legumes may be less likely to pass away from a heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases. The meta-analysis suggested replacing high-fat animal meat proteins with legumes is one of the reasons for the reduction in cardiovascular risks.
The research found a clear correlation between legume consumption and a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
There is evidence that a fibre diet can help drop the risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who consume the most dietary fibre can reduce their incidence and mortality from cardiovascular disease by 17-28%. A greater intake of dietary fibre may lower the odds of cardiovascular disease developing by improving serum lipid concentrations, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.
2Reduce the risk of cancer
Higher intake of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, fresh peas, and dry beans) was associated with a 49% lower risk of cancer mortality. The effect of legumes on dropping cancer odds was even more significant among obese participants – 62%.
Beans and other legumes have potential health benefits, including their ability to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Antioxidants are substances that can protect cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals, and some studies show that they can help reduce the risk of certain diseases, including cancer.
3Balance glucose and insulin level
Beans can help stabilise blood glucose levels or even prevent diabetes. Beans contain fibre, which can help lower blood glucose levels. A review of 15 studies found that fibre, compared with a placebo, reduced fasting blood glucose levels by 0.85 mmol/l in patients with type 2 diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a fasting blood sugar level of 6.1 mmol/L or higher indicates diabetes. However, it is important to note that different organizations and healthcare professionals may use slightly different criteria for diabetes diagnosis. In general, a fasting blood sugar level above 7.0 mmol/L is considered to be a sign of diabetes, although some organizations may use a slightly lower cutoff of 6.5 mmol/L or 6.7 mmol/L.
Another study examined the effect of adding 100 g of pulses to the daily diet of people with type 2 diabetes. This study showed a decrease in blood sugar levels and blood pressure in the group that consumed legumes compared to the control group, which consumed more wholemeal fibre.
4Great source of high-quality vegan protein
When switching to a vegan diet our main eating habits are rebuilt, that’s why it is very important to make sure that body receives all needed nutrients. One way to do this is to include plant-based protein sources, such as pulses, nuts, and vegetables, in our meals as substitutes for animal protein. With careful planning, it is possible to meet all of our nutritional needs and feel satisfied with a vegan diet.
Bean protein is well absorbed by the body. This means that it gives your body an excellent energy boost throughout the day and keeps you filled for a long time.
5Help to keep weight in check
Protein and fibre in beans slow up gastric emptying, and you feel fuller for longer and have a delayed return of hunger, says Cynthia Sass – editor of Nutrition Health and author of ‘Lose Weight Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast’. Most people tend to turn to meat for their protein fix, but beans are also packed with nutrients.
One more benefit of including beans in your diet is their low-fat content, which can help with weight loss. This is because the fibre in beans is not digested and absorbed into the bloodstream like other nutrients, but instead passes through the gastrointestinal tract and helps to fill you up. This makes beans an excellent choice for weight loss, as well as for overall health.
6Improve gut health
Beans are a great source of fibre, which is good for gut health. When fibre passes through the digestive system undigested, it serves as food for intestinal bacteria – beneficial gut bacteria. Because of their high fibre content, consuming beans can help improve gut barrier function and increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can help prevent gut-related diseases.
7Very affordable and versatile source of good macro and micronutrients
Beans are another great source of protein and are very affordable.
As you can see, it is possible for many different food sources to provide your body with protein. The cost of protein per 100 grams of product is quite low. This will definitely allow you to get your protein needs to be met on a daily basis.
Beans – Bad news
The most common side effects of eating beans are gas and intestinal discomfort. These are not dangerous but can be unpleasant or even painful for some people.
Typically, the fibre in beans is meant to help prevent constipation by moving food through your intestines. However, the flip side to this is that if you don’t drink enough liquid after consuming beans, it can actually cause constipation. This is because beans are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre, and soluble fibres need liquid to move through your system as they should.
Beans contain fibre, which is not easily digested by the body. If you overdo beans, the fibre they contain can temporarily slow down your bowels and cause cramps.
Beans are in the list of products that may promote significant gas production. They contain a sugar called raffinose which cannot be digested by the human body. This sugar is broken down into gases like methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide by bacteria that live in the gut. These gases cause bloating and gas production.
Beans also contain phytic acid which can prevent your body from absorbing certain nutrients like calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Soaking beans helps to reduce their phytate content. So, in order to omit the side effect soak them before cooking.
How to manage downsides
To prevent constipation, make sure to drink water after eating the beans. Because soluble fibres in beans need liquid to move through your system.
If you overeat beans, the fibre they contain can temporarily slow down your bowels and cause cramps. That’s why you should mind the portion size.
If you have a sensitive bowel, you should avoid eating beans or eat small amounts, as they can cause gas production and bloating.
Soak the beans before cooking so that they do not interfere with other important nutrients.
Fun & curious facts about beans
Napoleon Bonaparte believed that beans help to strengthen muscles and improve brain activity, and he always ordered beans to be included in the army diet. His army was the best army in Europe for decades and beans possibly were one of the success factors. 🙂
In Nicaragua, newlyweds receive a bowl of beans for good luck.
Beans in the Blue Zones
Beans comprise an important source of protein in the Blue Zones areas, long-livers in Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan eat at least 100 g (3.52 oz) of cooked beans per day. Beans are a great source of health benefits and people living in the Blue Zones know this.
Beans. Experiment by Healthypedia
Let’s sum beans up
Beans are an extremely affordable source of protein, fibre and minerals. By including them in your diet you receive a bunch of health benefits as they promote heart and gut health, lower cancer risks, and keep weight in check.
Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues!
In this video, Dr. Joel Fuhrman talks about how beans affect our bodies, how they may prevent cancer and other fascinating facts about beans. Dr. Joel Fuhrman is an internationally recognized expert in nutrition and natural healing, a seven-time New York Times best-selling author, and a board-certified family physician.
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