Food in the Spotlight

What You Need To Know About the Small but Mighty Beans

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans were gathered in their wild state in Afghanistan, with seeds the size of an average fingernail. The common bean has been cultivated for six thousand years in America.

What You Need To Know About the Small but Mighty Beans 1Bean is the common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae used for human food or animal feed. The whole young pods of bean plants are very tender if picked before they are ripe and dry. They may be eaten cooked or raw.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans were gathered in their wild state in Afghanistan, with seeds the size of an average fingernail. The common bean has been cultivated for six thousand years in America.

Types

There are many types of beans which include:

  • Azuki Beans
  • Anasazi Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Black-eyed Peas
  • Garbanzo (Chickpeas)
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Soy Beans

Nutrition

Beans have high amounts of fiber and soluble fiber which can help lower blood cholesterol. They are a low-fat, vitamin-packed source of protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, iron and even more reasons to eat them.

They’re chock-full of Antioxidants

The high levels of phytochemicals reduce plaque build-up and keep blood vessels healthy which help in preventing the hardening of the arteries. Black beans offer the most benefit, followed by lentils, black soya beans and red kidney beans. As of the many fruits, vegetables and other foods, the beans were the clear winners as to the best antioxidant foods. Antioxidants are compounds that fight diseases in our body for us to stay healthy.

Helps Lower Cholesterol

In an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study in North Dakota, consuming even only one-half cup of cooked dry beans everyday can help lower total cholesterol levels. The results of the study provide evidence that beans are a heart healthy food choice.

Researchers in ARS tested 80 volunteers aged 18 to 55 years. Half of the volunteers were healthy while the other half had symptoms of metabolic syndrome that signals a risk of cardiovascular disease. Volunteers with the metabolic syndrome had abdominal obesity, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high blood pressure. For 12 weeks, half of the volunteers were randomly chosen to eat one-half cup of cooked dry pinto beans everyday along with their regular diet. The other half ate a serving of chicken soup as replacement of the pinto beans. After 12 weeks, findings show that all the volunteers, the healthy ones as well as those with symptoms, who ate pinto beans saw a reduction in their cholesterol levels.

Another study showed that people at risk of developing diabetes who ate 120ml of pinto beans a day for eight weeks lowered their total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by more than eight percent.

Beans Help Lose Weight

Beans offer a lot of macronutrients that support a healthy body that it can even help you lose weight. They are a good source of protein with far few calories that help you lose weight without sacrificing nutrition. Beans are free from cholesterol which is an essential part of losing weight. Beans also help control blood sugar, reduce food cravings, help you feel satisfied and help eliminate constipation.

Beans contain minimal amount of fat which can be a factor for someone who is looking to lower the amount of fat in their diet. Studies have shown that legumes contain an enzyme which can block the break down and absorption of carbohydrates such as sugar and milk.

Toxins

Some kinds of raw beans especially the red and kidney beans contain a harmful toxin – the lectin phythohaemagglutinin. Although it is not something to be worried of since they can be destroyed through cooking. One recommended method is to boil it for more than ten minutes. Take note that undercooked beans may be more harmful than raw beans.

Another method that is being used in some parts of Africa is Fermentation. It is used to remove toxins which will improve the nutritional value of the beans. It basically improves the nutritional impact of flour from dry beans. It also improves digestibility.

You can include beans in almost any Mediterranean recipe believe it or not – give it a shot!

Ray Baker