When it comes to your health, beans really are a magical fruit. There are a several varieties of beans and legumes with differing flavor profiles, including chickpeas, split peas, lentils, edamame, and black, pinto, kidney, and cannellini beans, to name just a few. Beans and legumes are inexpensive food options for those on a budget, and can be purchased dry, canned, or frozen. According to Harvard Medical School, beans and legumes are an excellent source of plant protein, fiber, minerals, nutrients, and are low in fat and gluten-free. Adding about three cups of beans and legumes to your diet per week may also have the following health benefits:
Reduce risk of certain diseases and cancer
Beans have been found to reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to several studies, including those published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Archives of Internal Medicine, eating a bean-rich diet helps to control blood sugar, as beans naturally have a low glycemic index, which can reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes or help control the symptoms of those who already have diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, due to their high fiber content and low fat, beans have also been found to reduce levels of bad cholesterol, which is a leading cause of heart and cardiovascular disease.
In addition to reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the Bean Institute note that beans and legumes contain phytochemicals, such as lignans and saponins, antioxidants, and resistant starch, that have been shown to ward off free radicals that can lead to certain cancers, such as colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer.
Support a healthy weight
Beans and legumes can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council, beans are low in fat and packed with satiating fiber and protein. Fiber and protein are digested more slowly, keeping you feeling fuller longer. In addition, the protein in beans can fuel your workout and promote muscle growth.
Help prevent birth defects
Folic acid is an important B vitamin that is important to both men and women, but especially so for pregnant women or women thinking of becoming pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control, consuming the recommended amount of folic acid before and during pregnancy may help prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine. Beans and legumes are an excellent source of naturally-occurring folic acid, or folate, according to the U.S. Dry Bean Council.
The magical fruit?
Despite their health benefits, beans are well known to cause uncomfortable bloating and gas, as the digestive system has trouble breaking down the fiber and short-chain sugar molecules found in them. As such, many people avoid eating this superfood due to its not-so-pleasant side effects. However, according to Harvard Medical School, there are several ways in which you can reduce your chances of gas and bloating after eating beans, including soaking and rinsing the beans before cooking; chewing the beans more thoroughly; slowly acclimating your body to increased servings of beans over time; and taking a dietary supplement, such as Beano and Bean-zyme, before consuming beans.