Beans - An All Round Health Food

Beans - An All Round Health Food

Dry beans are good for your health! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the statement, "Diets including beans may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers", to be placed on packages of dry beans.

The FDA doesn't like to endorse anything that competes with the profits of drug companies, so this endorsement really means something.

Beans fight chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity and cancer.

Note: No two beans are the same and no two people are the same, so this page is only about most people and most beans.

Why must they be dry? I eat beans straight from the vine from time to time, but the season is short and beans dry on the plant if you just leave them long enough. You can enjoy dried beans all the year round. You just have to soak them long enough. Most beans need to be soaked overnight, but lentils don't need to be soaked.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says you should eat at least three cups of cooked dry beans per week. Beans swell so much when you soak them that this represents only a little over one cup of dried beans.

One cup of cooked beans per day will give you a high percentage of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for protein, copper, zinc, iron, potassium, and the vitamin folate. One cup of beans also contains high fibre, good carbohydrates and only about 250 calories.

Beans Are Not New

Dry beans were a staple food for native peoples of the Americas more than 6,000 years ago. Today, dry beans are used sparingly in the American diet - about a half cup per person per week instead of the three recommended above. However, because of their high nutritional value, probably more should be consumed. Lima beans have a lovely creamy texture when cooked and only take about an hour to cook, unlike some varieties of beans that take several hours.

The good nutritional value and health benefits of dry beans have been known for many years, but only recently have nutritionists begun to publicize those benefits, possibly because they wanted to get credit for the information before the Internet let the cat out of the bag.

Protein

One cup of cooked beans will provide about 25% of your protein needs. However, as with most plant proteins, bean protein does not contain enough of what we call the sulfur amino acids, and the amino acid tryptophan. These must be obtained from other food proteins such as eggs, meat, and dairy products.

I'm allergic to milk products but I've discovered that the largest size of egg available at the weekend markets works out at a fraction of the cost per pound of any of the meats, and the quality of egg protein is the standard by which other sources are judged. So I get my protein from eggs, meat and beans.

Trace Elements

Beans also are an excellent source of copper, with one cup providing 40 to 50% of the RDA, and of iron, with 20% of the RDA for women of childbearing age and 40% for men. Beans also contain essential vitamins, including folate at about 70% of the RDA in one cup. Folate is important in the diet of pregnant women to help prevent birth defects.

As with most food derived from plant seeds, beans contain a complex collection of compounds, some of which tend to reduce the absorption of nutrients such as iron and zinc. However, preliminary results from a recent study at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center shows that the nutrient copper is almost 100% available for absorption from cooked dry beans.

When you soak beans they release poisons to prevent pests eating the seeds, but humans invented cooking, which destroys the poisons in the beans. We are super-pests!

Carbohydrates

Dry beans also contain the so-called "good carbohydrates", those that have a low glycemic index. This means that they are slowly digested and do not raise blood sugar and blood insulin levels as fast or as high as the more refined carbohydrates such as starches and sugars. This is very important from many aspects.

Fibre

Beans are high in soluble fibers. In addition, beans contain "resistant starches" that are not readily digested in the small intestine. Instead, they are passed on to the colon where bacteria break them down and form short chain fatty acids, such as butyric acid. In studies with laboratory animals, this compound has been shown to promote colon health by preventing pre-cancerous lesions in the lower bowel.

Dry beans are an excellent way to increase dietary fiber consumption and most individuals can incorporate beans into their diet without difficulty if they do so gradually. Everyone knows about the vulgar effects of eating beans, but they may not realise that these are the result of changing your diet too suddenly.

If you successfully adapt to a cupful of lima beans per day and change to lentils one day, the results of the sudden change will be quite antisocial. I spend most of my time at the computer and My computer doesn't mind at all.

Bean Varieties

There are many bean varieties: most of them are good health-food. the soybean is an exception unless it is fermented. Soybeans are mostly genetically modified and loaded with hormones that imitate female hormones so girls as young as 7 can become pregnant, and boys are becoming more effeminate.

Fermented soybeans (tempeh, miso, natto) have a long history in oriental countries. Other beans such as black bean, pinto bean, red bean, fava or broad bean, kidney and navy beans each have their own characteristic flavours, textures, and health benefits.

Baked Bean

Why should you put up with the revolting mess sold in tins of baked beans when you can bake your own much more cheaply? Look at the label to see what additives you are buying. You are probably paying for sugar and thirty additives - each having unknown interactions with all the other additives. Dried beans are cheap. Use any recipe on the web to bake your own. Don't add sugar. Sugar is a poison. One teaspoon of refined sugar switches off your immune system for 3 hours.

Bean Soup

Make this with dried or green beans, or both. You can blend some cooked dried beans to get a thick soup or enjoy the texture of whole lima beans as you squelch them with your tongue.

Fast Food

Put red lentils through a grinder.

When you need a fast meal put half a cup of the resulting powder into a saucepan and add two cups of water, and bring to the boil. Meanwhile crack two eggs into a glass and smell them to check that they are fresh. Stir the lentils until they start to stiffen, which will be soon after they boil, then stir in the two eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. That lot takes about a quarter of an hour to prepare and is very filling.

Analysis

There are too many types of beans to cover here so I'll give lima beans as an example. 100gm of large mature lima beans boiled without salt would contain

  • 70% water
  • 7.8% protein
  • 21% carbohydrate
  • 7% dietary fibre
  • 17% calcium
  • 43 mg magnesium
  • 111 mg phosphorus
  • 508 mg potassium (compare with bananas)
  • 4.4 micrograms selenium (depends on selenium in ground where grown)
  • 83 micrograms of folate (that is a good amount)
  • 2 micrograms vitamin K