We’ve all heard the expression “shop the perimeter of the store.” But if you skip the middle, you’re missing out on a wealth of wholesome, delicious food choices. Your supermarket shelves are filled with treasures you shouldn’t pass up on, like beans, one of the most neglected and under-valued items.
Beans provide myriad health benefits, and they fit into several different food groups. Although they are rich in complex carbohydrates like breads and starches, as a plant-based food, they are right at home within the vegetable group, offering an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They can also hold their own in the protein group, supplying protein aplenty. Unlike some other members of this group, beans contain little to no fat and are cholesterol-free. In fact, beans actually lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels instead of potentially causing them to increase, as some animal proteins have been shown to do.
Beans Provide Myriad Health Benefits
Fitting Into Several Food Groups
Though they’ve been around for centuries, beans are a modern-day superfood. Why? Let’s count the ways.
Beans are heart-helpers
Beans are heart-healthy because they contain an abundance of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you prefer canned beans, you can ditch up to 40 percent of the sodium by rinsing them in water.
Beans are low in fat
Most beans contain about 2 to 3 percent fat and no cholesterol, unless they’re processed or prepared with other ingredients, such as lard. (Check labels to see what else may be in the package or can.)
Beans pack protein
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat more plant-based proteins. About ½ cup of beans provides 7 grams of protein, the same amount as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat, or fish. Vegetarians, vegans and individuals who seldom eat meat, poultry, or fish can count on beans as an alternative choice.
Beans balance blood sugar
With a low glycemic index, beans contain a beautiful blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps to keep blood glucose stable and may curtail fatigue and irritability.
Beans cut cancer risk
Scientists recommend that adults consume 3 cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like cancer. That is owed to their abundance of fiber and antioxidants.
Beans will move you
Filled with fiber, beans can promote regularity by preventing constipation. To maximize the benefits, be sure to accompany high-fiber foods with ample fluids like still or sparkling water. Weighing in at 5 to 8 grams of fiber per 100 grams (3 ounces), beans are ideal for those who are sensitive to gluten, a natural protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. If you do have food allergies, check the food label or contact the manufacturer to be sure the product is safe.
Beans satisfy you
Because beans are metabolized more slowly than other complex carbs, they may aid in weight loss by keeping you feeling full without being excessively high in calories.
Beans are convenient
Canned, frozen, or dried, beans are a breeze to purchase, prepare and store. They even come in flour form.
Beans are wallet-friendly
Beans are the least expensive source of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat.
Beans are nutrient-rich
Aside from protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, beans are powerhouses of nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans refer to many of these important elements as “shortfall nutrients,” meaning that most of us aren’t getting enough of them. Beans can help you to complete your plate.
Beans are versatile
Beans can be incorporated into a main dish (e.g. chili), side dish (e.g. rice and beans), appetizer (e.g. soup), or snack (e.g. dip). It’s easy to get creative with kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. Take advantage of the various shapes, sizes and colors when planning meals.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN is director and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She counsels individuals, groups and corporations in wellness programs and seminars. She appears regularly as an expert guest on national television and radio programs and in the press.
Bonnie has served as a spokesperson to the New York State Dietetic Association and for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
As a prolific writer, she has written numerous articles for leading newspapers and magazines. She was a consultant to best-selling books, including “Nutrition for Dummies” and “Cholesterol for Dummies,” and has written chapters for many other textbooks.
She is the author of, “Read It BeforeYou Eat It,” translating confusing and misleading terminology into consumer-friendly information. For more information, visit http://www.bonnietaubdix.com.
The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.