I don’t know about you, but when I think about beans this famous rhyme tends to comes to mind: “Beans, beans good for the heart, the more you eat the more you —-. I’ll let you fill in the blank! While it’s true that beans can be a cause of flatulence, they also can do marvelous things for your health!
Beans and other legumes (like lentils and split peas) are the ideal carbohydrate. Surprised? You see, when many people think of high-fiber, starch-containing foods, what tends to come to mind is whole grains. Now these are, of course, healthful foods, but beans knock it out of the park nutritionally. This is because beans and their legume cousins have extremely high levels of fiber and resistant starch. These are carbohydrates that are not broken down by our digestive system. And because they are indigestible, they have a number of valuable health effects. Firstly, because they are indigestible they reduce the total number of calories that are absorbable from beans. The fiber and resistant starch also limit the blood sugar raising effects of beans. Secondly, when this resistant starch and some fibers reach your colon, they become food to feed healthy gut bacteria, which ferments it into cancer preventing compounds in the colon. Great, huh?
There’s more good news! Beans help guard against diabetes and weight gain. Because the fiber and resistant starch in beans keep their blood sugar raising effects low, they are great foods for preventing diabetes. One study on 64,000 women followed for 4 years found that high intake of beans and other legumes were associated with a 38% decreased risk of diabetes.
This is what I really love about beans: Since they are high-nutrient, high-fiber, and low-calorie, you can scarf them down in large quantities without worrying about weight gain. And because of the high fiber and resistant starch content, this makes beans very satiating. This allows you to feel full longer and fend off food cravings. Beans are an amazing weight loss tool. Love that!
To really get the benefits beans provide, try to eat at least one cup of beans, lentils, or split peas every day. You can have them on salads, in soups and stews, or blended into dips for raw vegetables. Check out some amazing recipes in The End of Dieting by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. The Super Simple Hummus recipe is delicious! You can flavor and spice beans any way you want, and there is a huge variety to choose from; chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, lima beans, pinto beans, lentils, red kidney beans, soybeans, cannellini beans, split peas, and so many more. The most economical way to buy them is to get dried beans, but if using canned beans is more convenient for you, try to choose no salt added varieties, and look for BPA-free cans. Eden Foods has a great line of no salt added, canned beans in BPA-free cans. The best prices I have found for these are at vitacost.com.
If beans are a new food to you, be sure to chew them very well, this will minimize gas and bloating. You want to start out with a small amount and gradually increase the amount you eat as your digestive tract adapts. Soon you will be digesting beans like a champ! And eat a variety. Each is different in taste and texture and you will discover a whole new world of deliciousness! For some great recipe ideas, check out The China Study All-Star Collection by Leanne Campbell.