The Power of Beans: Unlock the Nutritional and Health Benefits of Beans
Nature has given us a never-ending bounty of foods to nourish and sustain us. From meats, fish, fruits, and veggies, the array of choices we have at our disposal is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Within the plant kingdom itself, there are thousands of species each with their unique taste, texture, and nutrient profile. Nowadays, this or that ‘superfood’ is often in the headlines being touted as a cure-all for whatever ails us.
However, some foods keep plugging away in the background. We take them for granted yet they have been pillars of our diets for centuries. They are versatile, healthful, and delicious. Globally, we consumed a whooping 19,658 kt of beans in 2020, more than any other year on the records. So drain a can of chickpeas, get some pinto on the boil, and let’s get rolling!
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The Nutritional Benefits of Beans
Beans are bursting with nutrients. Beans are a true powerhouse of nutrition, packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They offer a rich and satisfying taste that can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and dips. Whether you’re a vegetarian, a meat lover, or somewhere in between, beans are a delicious and healthy addition to any diet!
Protein in Beans
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. With around 7-10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, beans are an ideal protein source for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet. Whether you’re enjoying a hearty bowl of chili or a fresh and zesty salad, beans offer a satisfying and nutritious boost of protein that can help support your active lifestyle. Your taste buds (and your muscles) will thank you!
Fiber in Beans
Beans add more than just macros to your meal, they’re also packed with fiber! Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, but it’s essential for keeping your digestive system healthy and your energy levels up. Beans are one of the best sources of fiber out there, with an average serving providing about 7 grams of fiber. This means that not only are beans a delicious and versatile food, but they also help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer.
Micronutrients in Beans
Beans are superstars in the micronutrient department as well.
- Beans also contain magnesium, a mineral that is involved in hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body, including energy production and muscle function.
- Beans have an abundance of Potassium, double that of a banana. Potassium is an essential electrolyte and is needed in almost all cells of the body.
- They are an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that is important for healthy fetal development during pregnancy. Folate also helps produce red blood cells and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Beans also contain vitamin K, which plays a critical role in bone health and helps with blood clotting.
- Green Beans deserve a special mention here being high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate.
Health Benefits of Beans
- Beans are a great source of plant-based protein, making them a nutritious option for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those looking to reduce their meat consumption.
- They are high in dietary fiber, which can promote healthy digestion, reduce the risk of constipation, and lower the risk of colon cancer.
- Beans are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
- They are a good source of iron, which is important for healthy red blood cell production and preventing anemia.
- Beans are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates, making them a great choice for weight management and blood sugar control.
- Some types of beans, such as black beans and chickpeas, are particularly high in folate, which is important for fetal development during pregnancy and may reduce the risk of birth defects.
- Eating beans can help lower cholesterol levels due to their high content of soluble fiber.
- They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and zinc, which are important for overall health and well-being.
- Regular consumption of beans has been linked to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancer.
How to Incorporate Beans into Your Diet
By incorporating beans into your diet in fun and creative ways, you can enjoy all the health benefits they offer while also adding some variety to your meals.
- Swap out the meat: Use beans as a meat substitute in your favorite recipes. Add them to your chili, stir-fry, or pasta sauce for a protein-packed meal that’s just as delicious as the original.
- Get creative with your tacos: Instead of using traditional ground beef or chicken, try using black beans or chickpeas as a filling for your tacos. Add some fresh salsa, guacamole, and shredded cheese for a flavorful and healthy meal.
- Make a bean puree: Use pureed beans as a base for a creamy and flavorful sauce. Add it to your pasta, roasted vegetables, or grilled chicken for a delicious and nutritious meal.
- Indulge in the comforting flavors of a classic green bean casserole: Featuring tender green beans, creamy mushroom sauce, and crispy fried onions. This timeless dish is the perfect sidekick to elevate any meal and satisfy your taste buds.
- Add beans to your smoothie: Yes, you read that right! Adding cooked beans to your smoothie can boost its protein and fiber content. Try adding white beans or chickpeas to your next fruit smoothie for a filling and nutritious breakfast.
- Use beans as a pizza topping: Use mashed beans as a pizza topping instead of traditional tomato sauce. Top with your favorite vegetables and cheese for a delicious and healthy meal.
- Bake with beans: Use pureed beans as a substitute for butter or oil in your baked goods. This can help reduce the calorie and fat content of your favorite treats while adding some extra fiber and protein.
- Make a bean-based dessert: Use cooked and mashed beans as a base for a healthy and delicious dessert. Try making black bean brownies or chickpea blondies for a sweet treat that’s also good for you.
Potential Drawbacks of Eating Beans
It would be wrong to tout beans as a cureall food. There are some potential drawbacks to consuming beans
- Gas: Let’s face it, beans can be a little gassy. This is because they contain complex carbohydrates that are difficult for the body to digest, leading to gas and bloating. However, soaking the beans before cooking them and cooking them thoroughly can help reduce the gas-producing compounds.
- Phytic acid: Beans contain phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc. However, soaking the beans before cooking them and pairing them with foods high in vitamin C can help increase mineral absorption.
- Lectins: Lectins are a type of protein found in beans that can be difficult for some people to digest. They can cause digestive discomfort and even lead to food poisoning if the beans are not cooked properly. However, cooking the beans thoroughly can help break down the lectins and make them easier to digest.
- Allergic reactions: While rare, some people may experience an allergic reaction to beans. Symptoms can include hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating beans, seek medical attention immediately.
Most of these drawbacks can be prevented or avoided using the steps mentioned above
Beans are a criminally underrated food. They are jam-packed with nutrition and flavor and have a variety of health benefits. It doesn’t hurt that they are delicious to boot! Incorporating them into your diet is a great step towards improving your health.
Can beans help with weight management?
Being low in calories yet high in complex carbs and fibre, beans can certainly help in weight management as part of a balanced diet.
Can beans help regulate blood sugar levels?
Beans have a low glycemic index and are high in fibre and protein and can help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Can eating beans help prevent cancer?
Some studies show evidence that beans may decrease the chances of developing colorectal cancer due to the high amount of fibre, phytochemicals such as lignans and antioxidants.
How can I incorporate more beans into my diet?
One of the best ways of incorporating beans into your diet is by adding them as an extra ingredient to salads, dips, salsa, pasta, scrambled eggs, and other foods. Once you get the hang of it you can try incorporating them in burger patties, chili, and even desserts!
Are canned beans as healthy as dried beans?
Canned beans are certainly healthy. However, some nutrients are inevitably lost in the canning process and dried beans are more nutritious and contain more fiber.
Are some types of beans more nutritious than others?
Given the huge variety of beans, some are more nutritious. While you cannot go wrong with any kind of beans, some of the most healthful varieties are black beans, kidney beans, green beans, garbanzo beans and navy beans.
Are beans high in protein?
Beans are high in protein containing 7-10g of protein per half-cup serving. This makes them an excellent vegan option.