Beans, Beans They’re Good For Your Heart

Beans are a superfood that have long been neglected and overlooked.  Often viewed as a poor man’s food and given a bad rap for their gas producing properties, many do not currently include them in the diet. Beans have been around for centuries and are a staple food in many cultures.  They are low in fat with zero grams of saturated fat.  Beans are also inexpensive with most varieties costing less than $1.50 per pound.  Their flexibility of use in various recipes make them a pantry staple. Their many uses include: soups, stews, chili, dips, spreads, pies, salads, pastas and as side dishes.

Beans are also nutritional power houses.  They are an excellent source of lean protein and fiber with 15 grams of protein and 13.5 grams of fiber per cup.   Additionally, they are high in B vitamins, copper, zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate and calcium.   Whenever possible purchase and prepare dried beans.  If you must use canned beans, rinse under running water in a colander for at least 1 minute to decrease the amount of sodium.  Rinsing the beans is said to decrease the amount of sodium content anywhere from 25-40%.


Benefits of Beans

  • Heart: Beans, beans the more you eat the better your heart.  I bet you thought I was going to say something else.  Research indicates that the soluble fiber in ½ – 1 ½ cups of beans has been linked to a 5-10% decrease in cholesterol.  For every 1% drop in cholesterol there is a 2% decrease in the risk of heart attack.  Beans have also demonstrated an effect on lowering the triglyceride levels.  Those who eat beans four or more times per week, decrease their risk of a heart disease 22% and their risk of a heart attack by 38%.
  • Increased Life Span: An intake of a ¼ of a cup of beans daily can increase the lifespan by 8%.
  • Cancer: Because of their high soluble fiber content bean consumption has been linked to decreased instances of colorectal cancers and colon polyps. It is recommended that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily and men consume 30-35 grams. Currently, the average American woman consumes just 12-13 grams of fiber a day and men consume only 15 grams.
  • Diabetes: Beans are a low glycemic index food and a major source of complex carbohydrates. This mean they cause a slow rise in blood sugar, especially when compared to simple carbohydrates like white pasta and white rice.  Their mixture of protein and carbohydrates results in slower glucose absorption and improved glucose levels.
  • Weight Loss: Individuals who include beans as a part of their diet are 22% less likely to be obese.  Beans are high in fiber, which helps you to feel full quickly and to stay full longer.
  • High in Antioxidants: Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, red beans and cranberry beans were ranked higher than blue berries and cranberries in levels of antioxidants.    


Cons of Beans

  • Increase gout flares due to high purine content
  • Can interfere with MAO inhibitors use to treat depression
  • Increase allergic reaction
  • Increase migraines
  • Can increase flatulence (gas)

To eliminate the gassiness and bloating associated with beans, it is recommended that you soak them overnight, discard the water, and then cook them.  You can also take Beano® a digestive enzyme to help alleviate those symptoms.  Researchers say that these symptoms lessen for 70% of individuals after 2-3 weeks.  Just hang in there this will soon pass (did you see what I did there?).

There are many benefits of incorporating beans in the diet and few cons.  It is an effortless way to plan more meatless meals, get more fiber, and decrease your risk of certain lifestyle related illnesses.  How do you plan to incorporate more beans into your diet?  Perhaps in a chili, or in a stew or maybe even a salad?  Whatever it is, your heart and body will thank you.

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