Belonging to the family of plants known as Fabaceae, the beans and legumes are considered to be a type of fruit or seeds. They are an amazingly rich source of healthy fiber and numerous B vitamins. Beans are deemed an essential and very effective part of weight-loss diet plans as they are the best source of plant protein. Beans are an excellent replacement of meat for the people who cannot have meat but want all the nutrition of it.
There are numerous different types of beans consumed by people all over the world. Beans are considered one of the healthiest foods as they are very beneficial for curbing high cholesterol as well as sugar levels in the blood. This article discusses some of the most common varieties of beans, along with their various health benefits.
Types and Varieties of Beans
These are small reddish-brown colored beans that hold a sweet and somewhat nutty flavor. They are mostly used in Asian cuisine, especially in Japanese cuisines.
- Baby Lima
These beans are flat and appear cream-colored. They have a rich buttery flavor, which is why baby lima beans are mostly used in soups and slow-cooked stews. These beans also taste divine when cooked with herbs and spices alone.
- Black Beans
Also called turtle beans, black beans are small and oval-shaped with a skin that is deep black. Their soft flesh might sometimes be very dark in color,as their skin or other times might appear cream or gray. They have a very mildly sweet flavor.
Black beans are mostly used in Latin American cuisines, such as in a bean burrito. Their taste is also elevated in soups, sauces, and stews.
- Blackeye Beans
These kidney-shaped beans have white skin with a small eye-like black patch, hence, given the name, “Blackeye.” They also have very fine wrinkles on their skin. These beans have a distinctive aroma, which enhances when they are cooked. Having a very creamy texture, these Blackeye beans are also known as cowpeas or black-eyed beans.
- Cranberry Beans
Cranberry beans are small round beans that have red patches on their otherwise ivory skin. The patches disappear after the beans are cooked. These beans have a creamy texture and a subtle nutty taste. Cranberry beans are a vital part of European cuisines, especially Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisines.
- Dark Red Kidney
These beans have a deep reddish-brown skin that is similar to that of kidneys. They are large and have the characteristic shape of kidneys. They have a soft texture with a mild flavor. Dark red kidney beans are most favored with rice and in salads.
Known by the common name, “chickpeas,” these beige-colored beans have a nutty flavor to them. Their flesh is soft and adds depth to their buttery texture. Garbanzo beans are the important ingredient in falafel, hummus, and curries.
- Great Northern
These are also kidney-shaped beans that appear flat. They are white on the outside as well as the inside and have a mild flavor. These beans are mostly used in French cuisines such as a white bean casserole.
- Large Lima
These flat ivory-colored beans have a creamy texture and give off a sweet flavor. They can be used as an excellent replacement for potatoes or rice. They are used in preparing soups and casseroles. Large lima beans are also often called butter beans.
- Light Red Kidney
These kidney-shaped beans are mostly large with very soft flesh and texture. They are very popular in the Caribbean countries and Spain and Portugal. They are mostly cooked with chili, rice, or used in salads.
Also called pea beans, navy beans have a powdery texture, and their flavor is quite mild. They are oval-shaped and white.
- Pinto Beans
Pinto beans are medium-sized and closely related to kidney beans. They have a patchy beige or brown skin, which turns brown when they are cooked. They have a delicious earthy taste. They are one of the star ingredients in Mexican cuisines.
For more information, check out our article on “Everything about Pinto Beans”.
- Small Red
These are also called Mexican red beans. They look a lot like the kidney bean as they also have dark red skin. However, these beans are smaller than the kidney beans. They remain firm when cooked and are mostly used in soups, creole dishes, and salads.
Beans are Highly Nutritious
Beans are highly nutritious for us as they are a rich source of protein. This is the reason why beans can easily replace meat when switching to a healthier alternative. Though every variety of beans offers a different proportion of nutrients, the common nutrients and minerals offered by beans are almost the same.
Beans are low on calories and high on protein and carbs. This makes them an important part of the weight-loss diet plans. Also, beans are always quite filling without piling up on excessive calories. They are an excellent go-to for healthy food for people in search of food that provides energy without adding any extra calories.
Pinto beans, for instance, are an amazing source of some essential minerals such as zinc, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Moreover, a decent amount of vitamin B1, B6, K, and E also contribute to making beans one of the healthiest foods that we have.
Among all the plant foods, beans are regarded as the prime source of proteins for vegetarians. A cup of beans (such as pinto beans) only contains about 245 calories, which makes them the most nutrient-rich plant foods amongst all.
- Helpful in Weight Loss
With high protein and fiber content and exceptionally low calorie-count, beans are deemed as the most effective food for promoting weight loss. The protein and fiber contents in the beans help the most in losing weight. Research ascertains that in comparison to weight loss plans that include low-protein items, consuming high-protein items such as beans can help more with weight loss, fat mass loss, and maintaining lean mass.
High-protein and fiber content in the beans also result in increased perceived fullness due to a slow and elongated digestion process. This factor is essential for cutting down on binge eating during a weight loss diet. A study concluded that consuming foods with high fiber content, such as beans, resulted in feeling satiated for a long time, which in turn resulted in weight loss in the participants (about 3 pounds or 1.4kg) during the 4-week study.
- Good for The Heart Health
One of the leading causes of deaths all around the world is heart disease. Beans and legumes are claimed as essential food items that lower the risk of developing heart disease. A systematic review of about 26 studies concluded that consuming beans significantly results in decreasing the risk of arterial occlusion – which is the direct result of high cholesterol levels in the blood.
Moreover, incorporating beans in our diet also helps to promote the health of our heart by significantly increasing the good cholesterol levels in the blood, along with a reduction in blood pressure and inflammation. The polyphenols in these plant foods act as a potent antioxidant that protects the heart from damage.
- Potentially Beneficial For Combating Type-2 Diabetes
It is claimed that consuming beans is very beneficial in combating type-2 diabetes. Beans are well-known for their high fiber content (around 5-8 grams per serving). Also, the glycemic index (GI) of beans is very low – implying that they do not readily impact the blood sugar levels. This quality of beans is deemed potentially very valuable in regulating blood sugar levels.
Incorporating foods that have low GI is directly related to decreased blood sugar levels, which in turn results in a significant decrease in HbA1c levels. HbA1c levels depict high sugar levels in the blood over a long time.
Beans are said to be an ideal replacement of meat for people who need to avoid meat for health reasons. This is backed by scientific evidence wherein people with diabetes showed significantly decreased levels of sugar, insulin, and triglycerides in the blood after replacing beans with red meat.
- Helpful in Pregnancy
Beans are a well-known source of numerous vital minerals and vitamins, including folate. Folate is extremely beneficial for a lot of reasons – it promotes the growth of red blood cells in our body. Additionally, beans being a great source of folate are recommended to women who are expecting. Folate in the beans helps in the healthy growth of the fetus and prevents it from developing neural defects.
According to Food Data Central by the US government, a cup (155g) of beans, such as shelled edamame, provides our bodies with about 482mcg offolate.
- Antioxidant Properties
Plant foods, such as beans, are an excellent source of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants that are effective for reducing the harmful impacts of oxidative stress in our bodies. The fact that such a powerful antioxidant can be obtained from beans should be stressed as antioxidants help lower the risk of degenerative diseases.
Polyphenols actively fight the free radicals in our body that disrupt important processes in our bodies, such as harming the useful substances produced within our body during metabolism. Free radicals also target our cells and damage them; thus, resulting in numerous diseases. Therefore, beans being a rich source of antioxidants are essential for a healthy body.
- May Help Prevent Cancer
Owing to the antioxidant properties of beans, scientific evidence has shown that, together with the anti-inflammatory and antioxidants agents, beans may have the potential to reduce the risk of cancer. According to research conducted in 2015, black beans had shown the highest potential of reducing the risk of developing cancer. The research focused on finding if the antioxidant property of beans could combat intestinal cancer.
It was revealed in a study conducted in 2016 that the black beans could also help reduce the growth of colorectal cancer.
Preparation of Beans
Nothing definitive can be said about the cooking time of the beans as it depends on the type of beans you choose to cook. However, for almost all the beans, the following steps of preparation are essential.
- Always wash the beans with water. Washing them will render shriveled beans to the surface.
- Remove those and the discolored ones so that you cook the best of them.
- Soaking a night before you want to cook the beans is also very important for the beans to turn out soft. This step also cuts short the cooking time of the beans.
- Discard the soaked water from beans the next day and boil the beans or cook them as you wish.
You can also get canned beans – which are precooked – and add them to any dish you want. However, always check the labels of the cans as to whether the beans already have salt added to them or not.
Incorporating Beans in Your Diet
- Beans can easily replace meat in numerous dishes such as various types of pasta, casseroles, or even soups. This is an excellent way of reducing the consumption of red meat and staying healthy.
- When added to salads, beans make up an amazingly filling dish that is delicious as well as healthy. Such salads are easy to prepare if you prepare the beans according to the steps above.
- Combine beans with grains and voila. You have a complete protein-rich diet that will provide you with all the nutrients your body needs.
Beans are loaded with fiber and protein. They are a rich source of some essential minerals required by our body, along with having minimal calories. Thus, beans are the healthiest plant foods ever. They feed our bodies with antioxidants and help protect them from heart diseases and degenerative diseases. Beans make up an essential part of weight-loss plans as they are very filling. The fiber content in them helps regulate the blood sugar levels also, which makes them ideal for combating type-2 diabetes.