By Jacob Gerdes, recent Arizona State University Nutrition Communications Student
This fruit comes in all colors and shapes and can take many forms in different recipes. They are nutrient powerhouses with multiple health benefits from protecting your heart to protecting your colon. They’re cheap, easy to prepare, and can be easily seasoned to make a tasty side dish or main course. I am talking about beans, their health benefits, and the many reasons you should make them a staple in you diet! While all legumes should become a staple in you diet, today we will focus on beans alone.
Nutrition and Health
Beans provide a very solid nutrient profile that varies slightly depending on what bean you’re trying to learn more about. Typically beans will be high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, and low in total fat and sugar. For an example comparing two very common beans, Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and black beans, we will look at the nutrient profiles based off the same weight of beans. I used a can of each type of bean for this example.
Total Fat-1 gram
Total Carbohydrate-19 g
Total Fat:0 g
Total Carbohydrate- 19 g
As far as macronutrients are concerned, beans will generally have similar profiles. This shows that beans are a great low calorie option to meet your daily protein and fiber goals, which may be a challenge for some individuals. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that on average adults typically consume around 16 grams of fiber; well below the recommend 21-38 grams, which varies depending on your size and age. Fiber is great for developing a healthy environment of intestinal bacteria as well as aiding in the prevention of colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Because beans are high in fiber, they are a great way to fill up and stay sated for longer. Also beans are a great source of protein, however, they are incomplete in supplying all 9 essential amino acids that we must consume as our bodies cannot produce them alone. Pairing beans with a grain such as rice offers a complete amino acid profile as well as a great meal opportunity.
According to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, along with a great macronutrient ratio, beans are high in micronutrients especially one compound called lignans; lignans are a particular type of polyphenol. An article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discusses polyphenols and their important role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Beans are very high in lignans, and the regular consumption of these wonderful fruits can yield some potent long-term health benefits.
Many people associate beans with bloating and gas, which may occur due to the high fiber content of the food. What happens is that fiber is unable to be digested by our bodies. However, the bacteria within our digestive track will breakdown the fiber and gas is a byproduct of this process. Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor of Harvard Health lists a few options to reduce the likelihood of gas. Stewart recommends soaking your beans to reduce resistant starches, and pick beans such as mung, lentils, black-eyed, pigeon and split peas as they tend to cause less gas. He also suggest slowly cycling beans into your diet to allow your body to adjust to the fiber as well as chewing more to help break the fiber down.
Beans in our diet
We live in a day and age where recipe books are slowly turning into online resources. The possibility to experiment with the addition of beans in your diet is endless. You have the possibility of utilizing dried or canned options; both are incredibly inexpensive and take no time to prepare. For dry beans, just give them a soak and then use fresh water to boil. For the canned options make sure to rinse the beans in a strainer to wash off a lot of the resistant starches that may cause some digestive issues.
Whether you make a fresh bean salad or use them as a side to your favorite dish, adding beans to your diet will have great health benefits, keep you fuller longer, and won’t take a toll on your wallet. Keep in mind beans are great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; so find a fun recipe and take a chance on a new dish that your family might fall in love with!
For bean recipes go to Fill Your Plate.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Fiber. Medline Plus Website. Last reviewed February 4, 2016. Accessed April 23, 2016. URL: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002470.htm.
- Higdon J, Drake VJ, Lampe JW. Micronutrient Information Center: Lignans. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Website. Last reviewed January 2010. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/lignans#introduction.
- Manach C, Scalbert A, Morand C, Rémésy C, Jiménez L. Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability. Am J Clin Nutr. Published May 2004; 79(5) 727-747. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/727.full.
- Skerrett PJ. Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans. Harvard Health Publications Website. Published November 30, 2012. Accessed April 24, 2016. URL: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/recipe-for-health-cheap-nutritious-beans-201211305612.