Beans are seeds from the flowering plant in the Fabaceae family, and are classified as legumes along with peas, lentils, and peanuts. There are many different types of beans offering many different tastes, textures and uses, so don’t just stick with baked beans! Beans can be dried, frozen, or canned. Here are some different types of beans that you should try to include in your cooking.
- Lima beans
- Black beans
- Cannellini beans
- Fava beans
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Red beans
- Pinto beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Fayot beans
- Mung beans
You may have heard that beans are good for your heart, and this is true, but what are the other health benefits they offer? Let’s have a look!
- They are full of essential nutrient like Protein, Folate and Fibre.
- Animal protein, soy proteins and quinoa, proteins are complete proteins, meaning they offer all 9 essential amino acids. Beans are still a great source of plant-based protein, but soybeans are the only beans that offer all 9 essential amino acids. Pairing beans with other plant-based proteins like rice, couscous or any other kind of grain will offer you all 9 essential amino acids. Beans are a great source of protein for Vegans and Vegetarians. They are also lower in saturated fat that animal proteins like meat and dairy. Having a diet low in saturated fat is a great step towards a healthy heart! Read my blog on Protein for more information.
- Folate or Folic acid is a very important nutrient that plays a role in red blood cell production and helps prevent neural tube defect in unborn babies. So, if you’re a female of child baring age eating plenty of beans and if you’re trying to get pregnant you should be taking a folic acid supplement.
- Then there’s Fibre which is essential for a healthy gut among other health benefits. Fibre also helps control your appetite as it keeps you fuller for longer, so increasing your fibre intake is a great way to lose weight if you need to. Read my blog on Fibre to find out more.
- Beans are rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect our body from free radicals that can cause damage to your cells and lead to chronic disease. These antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents found in beans could have a positive effect on preventing certain cancers such as colon cancer (Vilines, 2020). A 2015 found that black beans contain the most antioxidants (Moreno-Jiménez et al., 2015). Another study in 2016 found that naturally occurring chemicals in Northeast China black beans may be able to inhibit the growth of colon cancer by preventing the cancerous cells from multiply (Dan et al., 2016). You can also get polyphenols in most fruits & vegetables, legumes, some grains, many herbs 7 spices, black tea, capers, cocoa powder, coffee, dark chocolate (you can read my blog on the Health Benefits of Chocolate), ginger, green tea, olives and olive oil, rapeseed oil, red wine and vinegar.
- Heart health, numerous studies have shown that beans are good for heart health. A 2017 meta-analysis (a big review of multiple studies) showed that people who regularly consume beans are less likely to die of a heart attack (Marventano et al., 2017). A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that there is a definite link between eating beans and a decreased risk of developing heart disease or type 2 Diabetes (Afshin et al., 2014). Other research has shown that beans may be able to lower cholesterol levels, high cholesterol levels is a major red flag for heart attack or hear disease (Vilines, 2020). Also, the high fibre content will also mean beans lower the risk of developing Cardiovascular disease (CVD). So, they’re definitely good for the heart!
- Blood sugar control and Diabetes maintenance – So we’ve established that beans are a great source of fibre. Fibre helps slow the release of glucose from food into the bloodstream, giving us a steady flow of energy instead of a big energy spike followed may dip. Consuming a diet high in fibre helps reduce the risk of getting type 2 Diabetes in many ways, blood sugar control and weight maintenance being the two major ones. One study carried out on a group of people with type two Diabetics split them into 2 groups. One group was giving a cup of beans every day, the other group wasn’t. The group who got the cup of beans showed a significant decrease in blood pressure and improved glucose control compared to the other group (McRae, 2018).
- This one’s for the ladies. Did you know that most women experience period pain, and for many it’s so severe that it interferes with their daily activities? Period pain is mainly caused by inflammatory prostaglandins which are released when the lining of the uterus begins to breakdown. Oestrogen, the female sex hormone, also plays a role as excess oestrogen will cause the lining of the uterus to abnormally thicken and when it begins to breakdown a lot more inflammatory prostaglandins are produced, causing more pain(Barcikowska et al., 2020). Animal product (meat and dairy) and added oils increase oestrogen levels (Using Foods Against Menstrual Pain, 2021). Beans and other spongy low fat, high fibre foods like prunes, raisins, apricots, oats are oestrogen binders. They bind to excess oestrogen and it’s excreted from the body. A research study put 33 women on a low-fat, Vegan diet and they all showed significant decrease in period pain compared to when they were on their regular diet, less water retention and fewer mood swings (Barnard et al., 2000). The effects were so significant that some of the women continued following the low-fat, Vegan diet when the study was finished! Not saying you need to go full Vegan or Vegetarian, but maybe try cutting out meat and dairy around that time of month, maybe start the week before to flush out all that excess oestrogen in preparation for the “red river of sadness*. Try it out and you might be pleasantly surprised!
There are many different uses for beans, dried, canned, or frozen. You can use them in soup, stew, casseroles, or curries. They can be tossed in salads or pasta dishes. They can be used instead of meat in some recipes. There are loads of recipes that can help you incorporate more beans into your life, try my Mixed Bean Burrito for lots of flavour!
One last thing. If you’re worried about eating beans causing excess gas, then try these tips.
- Increasing your fibre intake is great, but it’s best done slowly. Other wise you may experience some uncomfortable gastro issues for a while. Beans are high in fibre so don’t go crazy eating a whole can of beans everyday straight off!
- Drinking plenty of water is a must when increasing your fibre intake.
- When soaking dry beans soak them in hot water. The longer they soak the more gas is released into the water, so it’s a good idea to change the water several times and discard the water afterwards.
- Rinse caned beans (ones without sauce like kidney beans and navy beans), before cooking.
In conclusion I think beans are a great addition to your diet, especially if you’re trying to add more plant-based foods. They are also great to use if you’re having a ‘’meat free’ day as many of them have a meaty texture and lots of protein.
Afshin, A., Micha, R., Khatibzadeh, S. and Mozaffarian, D. (2014) Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(1) 278–288.
Barcikowska, Z., Rajkowska-Labon, E., Grzybowska, M.E., Hansdorfer-Korzon, R. and Zorena, K. (2020) Inflammatory Markers in Dysmenorrhea and Therapeutic Options. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4). Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068519/ [accessed 9 February 2021].
Barnard, N.D., Scialli, A.R., Hurlock, D. and Bertron, P. (2000) Diet and sex-hormone binding globulin, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual symptoms. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 95(2) 245–250.
Dan, X., Ng, T.B., Wong, J.H., Chan, Y.S., Cheung, R.C.F. and Chan, W.Y. (2016) A hemagglutinin isolated from Northeast China black beans induced mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular Cell Research, 1863(9) 2201–2211. Available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016748891630163X [accessed 9 February 2021].
Marventano, S., Izquierdo Pulido, M., Sánchez-González, C., Godos, J., Speciani, A., Galvano, F. and Grosso, G. (2017) Legume consumption and CVD risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Nutrition, 20(2) 245–254.
McRae, M.P. (2018) Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 17(1) 44–53. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5883628/ [accessed 9 February 2021].
Moreno-Jiménez, M.R., Cervantes-Cardoza, V., Gallegos-Infante, J.A., González-Laredo, R.F., Estrella, I., García-Gasca, T. de J., Herrera-Carrera, E., Díaz-Rivas, J.O. and Rocha-Guzmán, N.E. (2015) Phenolic composition changes of processed common beans: their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in intestinal cancer cells. Food Research International, 76 79–85. Available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096399691400773X [accessed 9 February 2021].
Using Foods Against Menstrual Pain (2021) Available from https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/using-foods-against-menstrual-pain [accessed 9 February 2021].
Vilines, Z. (2020) 9 health benefits of beans Available from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320192 [accessed 9 February 2021].