9 Awesome Benefits Of Beans (Plus, They Taste Great)

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By Scott St. James, AGNP-BC

Beans!

Uh oh. I know you may be thinking, I love beans but not so much the gas that comes along with them. Did I guess correctly? Well, Don’t worry about the gas. There are products out there that can easily take care of that minor problem.

The health benefits of incorporating beans into your diet far outweigh the gas that they may give you. Plus the more you eat beans the less gas you will have over time.

So let’s jump right into the second part of our series….beans.

What exactly is a bean?

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So Many Varieties From Which To Choose

Merriam-Webster defines a bean as: “the seed of any of various erect or climbing plants (as of the genera Phaseolus and Vigna) of the legume family other than the fava bean. A plant bearing beans. An immature bean pod used as a vegetable.” 

Beans can greatly benefit you in the following areas:

Heart Healthy(1)

Since beans are naturally low in fat, free of saturated fat and trans-fat, and a cholesterol-free source of protein they make a much healthier choice for getting your daily protein intake met better than red meat does. Extensive research has shown that a low-fat low cholesterol diet which includes beans, may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Please don’t forget to incorporate the other things you need to be doing for continued cardiac health. These include 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week, monitor sodium, sugar, and fat intake. And of course, to monitor your weight. Remember to ask your doctor if you are due for any labs or tests that can help determine the health of your heart.

Also, ask your doctor to recommend a diet and some exercises for you that will keep your heart healthy. You can also do research on your own. Like reading my blog posts. There are many sites online that can give you the trusted information you need to keep your heart in great condition.

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Digestion(2)

Beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. This means that beans are doing double duty to keep your G.I. tract on track. Soluble fiber slows down your digestion, which gives you that full feeling and insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation. This is just a little side note here folks. Some people do not need help with this area of their lives. Some people, such as the elderly do need a little help in this area. As we age our G.I. tract doesn’t work like it did when we were younger. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water and eat enough fiber daily to help keep you regular.

Blood Sugar Control

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Beans Help Control Your Blood Sugar

Beans have a low glycemic index and contain complex carbohydrates, which are digested slowly. The Glycemic Index(3) (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. This means that eating beans on a regular basis will help control your blood sugar. Which will in turn help to control you Hgb A1c. Great news for diabetics!

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 Energy Booster

Beans’ complex carbohydrates provide a sustained energy source. Complex carbohydrates(4) are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains.  The carbs in beans get absorbed at a slower rate over a longer period of time which helps to sustain your energy levels. Try eating a snack before your workout to see how much of an energy kick you get from beans.

During Pregnancy

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Beans Can Help Prevent Birth Defects

Beans also contain Folate(folic acid)(5) which is vitamin B-9. This is very important for pregnant women and their unborn babies. During pregnancy, women need an increased amount of folate. Folate can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine.

Adult women who are planning a pregnancy or could become pregnant should make sure to get 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid(6) a day. Please check with your doctor or health care provider to see how much folate you should be taking before and during your pregnancy.

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Lower “Bad” Cholesterol  Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

In an article by Diana Fleming(7), of Full Plate Living she states that beans lower your “bad” cholesterol in the following ways. They are a good source of resistant starch, which helps lower your cholesterol. They contain phytosterols, the plant form of cholesterol, which helps lower your cholesterol level. They’re cholesterol free. They’re trans-fat-free. Trans fat raises your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They’re low in fat, especially saturated fat, which increases your cholesterol levels. By the way, a normal LDL cholesterol level is < 190 mg/dl according to Healthquestions.com(8)

Remember to have your cholesterol levels tested at your annual physical. This is something you do not want to let get out of control. High cholesterol can lead to stroke and heart attacks. These are two major health issues that people die from every year which could possibly be prevented with proper health maintenance. Know your numbers!

Nutritional Value Of Dry Beans

Check out this PDF(9) by the U.S. Dry Bean Council for these values on dry beans. There are many different types of beans listed here. Hopefully, you will be able to find your favorite type.

Nutritional Value Of Cooked Beans

Also, check out this PDF(10) by the U.S. Dry Bean Council for these values on cooked beans. There are many different types of beans, listed here also. Print them out and keep them handy for when you go to the grocery store.

Antioxidants(11)

Antioxidants are, “a substance that inhibits oxidation, especially one used to counteract the deterioration of stored food products. A substance such as vitamin C or E that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents in a living organism.”

The biggest class of antioxidants is flavonoids(12). According to Jessie Szalay, a Live Science contributor, “Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all fruits and vegetables. Along with carotenoids, they are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are the largest group of phytonutrients, with more than 6,000 types. Some of the best-known flavonoids are quercetin and kaempferol.”

One-third cup of cooked beans has 80 calories, no cholesterol(13), lots of complex carbohydrates, and little fat. Which makes them an excellent choice to add to almost any meal. Especially a salad, rice, or a good old-fashioned bean burrito.

How To Reduce Flatulence

According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council, “the natural oligosaccharides (complex carbohydrates) in beans may cause temporary digestive discomfort.” In an article from Livestrong.com(14), by Rose Erickson, there are some things you can do to help decrease the amount of gas you will get from eating beans.

They include soaking beans overnight, boiling your lentils for three minutes prior to soaking them to release some of the raffinose sugars that contribute to gas, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water to help remove raffinose sugars from the lentils, cook your lentils in a slow cooker for several hours, add acidic ingredients such as molasses or tomatoes only after you’ve cooked the lentils, take an over-the-counter digestive aid, and rinse canned lentils thoroughly before consuming them. Click on the Livestrong link to read the full article.

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Go Ahead. Give Beans A Try

             How Many Beans Should I Be eating Per Week     

Also, according to the U.S. Dry Bean Council(15) the U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines 2005 urge adults to consume three (3) cups of cooked dry beans a week. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat a cup at a time. You could break it up over six different meals throughout the week. You might want to do this, to begin with to decrease, even more, the amount of gas you’re having after eating beans. The are many recipes and dishes that you can use to get your weekly requirements of beans. Just be creative. Ask family or friends for recipes.

Check out this website for some great bean recipes www.greatrecipes.com(16)

Conclusion

So let’s put it all together. How are we going to get the most bang out of our bean? First, I believe we need to stop being worried about the gas we get from the beans. You can buy something over the counter like Beano to help with that.

Second, we need to remember that we are eating beans for their wonderful and healthy benefits that they bring to our lives.

Third, we need to research our favorite flavor of beans. See what recipes we can find to make them more appealing to us. We could even find ways to combine them with other healthy foods so we can get the most out of each meal.

Last, remember that in just a few weeks most of the gas will be gone and you can fully enjoy the taste and benefits of beans!

Please leave me a comment about how you’ve incorporated beans into your diet. Have they helped since you started using them? Do you notice any difference in how you feel or look? My wife, Dolores and I are going to find some tasty recipes and try them out.

For more foods with health benefits check out our articles on the benefits of salmon and blueberries

Please let me know what other topics you’d like to see on this blog. I’m here for you. I hope we have a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

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