Beans come from the Fabaceae family, known as the pea, legume or bean family. Beans either grow in pods or capsules that develop from flowers. Some legumes include peanuts, peas, and lentils, which can be bought dry, canned, or frozen. For some beans, only the seeds are edible, while some have its entire pod edible.
They are nutritional powerhouses packed with fiber, protein, iron, vitamins, and other minerals that offer different health benefits. Beans are also rich in amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that the body uses to heal and create new tissues.
There are several kind of beans. The most popular varieties include:
- Lima beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Pinto beans
- Red beans
- Navy beans
- Edamame beans
Nutrients You can Get from Beans
As mentioned earlier, beans contain vital nutrients and minerals that our body needs to function. Here are some of them:
Beans are a great way to get your low-calorie, low-fat protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a key role in maintaining and repairing the body. It’s an excellent source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Beans are high in amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There two types of protein sources: complete and incomplete. However, of all the types of beans, only soybeans have all the nine essential amino acids. On average, beans contain 15 grams of protein in a single cup.
You can combine incomplete proteins with seeds, nuts, grains, or dairy at a single meal or throughout the day so you can consume complete proteins. You can have black beans with cheese and almonds, or eat your beans with rice or couscous.
Beans are rich in fiber. It’s a great addition to your meals because most Americans don’t get the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. Fiber aids in digestion, and helps protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. A cup of black beans contains about 17 grams of fiber, while navy beans have about 19 grams of fiber per cup.
This B vitamin is essential for overall health. It stimulates creation of healthy red blood cells and prevent birth defects in a fetus during pregnancy. Folate is also good for heart health, nervous system, and cell division. A cup of pinto beans contains about 300 micrograms of folate, which is already 75% of the recommended daily amount. Meanwhile, a cup of shelled edamame beans provides 482 micrograms of folate.
The cells in our body need zinc to make genetic material, fight off germs, and heal wounds. For children, zinc is important because it helps develop the sense of smell and taste. A cup of garbanzo beans comes with 2.4 milligrams of zinc, which is a quarter of what you need for the day.
Iron is used by the body to make blood proteins that help move oxygen around the body. It’s an important nutrient for the hormones and connective tissues. A cup of soybeans contain about 9 milligrams of iron.
Potassium is needed by almost everything in your body, including your kidneys, muscles, nerves, and heart. Not many people know this, but beans are actually rich in potassium, especially lima beans, which contains a thousand milligrams per cup. That’s twice potassium that you can get from a banana.
Magnesium helps make up proteins and bones, and it stabilizes blood sugar. Black beans are high in magnesium, containing 120 milligrams per cup, which is a third of the recommended daily amount.
Beans are also found to be rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants combat the effects of free radicals, which can cause cell damage resulting to various diseases. Because of this, antioxidants help protect the body from diseases.
Benefits of Beans
Beans are good for the body. These are packed with health benefits, including:
Improves heart health
Studies have shown that people who eat beans daily are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases or heart failure. In a 2017 study, people switching from animal fat proteins to beans have shown to decrease their risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It is because the nutrients in the beans can lower your LDL or bad cholesterol. There is also evidence that eating a high-fiber diet such as beans help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reduces risk of cancer
Since beans contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, it could reduce the risk of cancer. A 2015 research states that beans contain antioxidants that can fight intestinal cancer. It identified black beans as the beans with the highest antioxidant activity. Beans are also found to contain isoflavones and phytosterols, which are linked to reduced risk of cancer.
Helps manage diabetes
Beans are superfood for diabetes sufferers. Its balance of protein and complex carbohydrates offers a slow and steady source of glucose instead of the sudden urge of sugar that happens after eating simple carbohydrates. It helps stabilize blood glucose levels and prevent diabetes. A 2018 review concluded that consuming a high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Another study revealed that adding a cup of legumes to the daily diet of people with type 2 diabetes resulted to a reduction of blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure.
Do you always worry about your weight and how much you’re eating? Make it a habit to eat beans regularly. When a person consumes beans, the fiber and healthy starches it contain can make a person feel full and satisfied quicker. Eating beans can help prevent overeating and lead to weight loss. The resistant starch in beans can make you stave off hunger lower, give you a supply of steady energy, and keep your blood sugar down.
Prevents fatty liver
A person can have a fatty liver when fats accumulate in the liver. It happens due to obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other metabolic syndromes. The treatment for fatty liver is reducing weight, controlling blood sugar, and reducing blood fat levels. Replacing high animal fat protein with beans is a step forward towards better liver health.
Also, the saponins and phytosterols in beans help lower cholesterol, thus, helping in the treatment of fatty liver.
Improves gut health
Research has shown that some beans, especially black beans, enhance intestinal barrier function by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Eating beans also prevents gut-related diseases as it feeds the healthy gut bacteria colonies.