It seems it is almost stylish for people to have a long list of foods they avoid. Some act as if the more foods you avoid, the better informed you must be. This approach is savvy when it comes to packaged items that should not even be called foods, but within the list of natural foods, diversity is best. In my practice, I have observed that limited diets lead to nutrient deficiencies, weaker digestive function and emotional stress.
Beans are a great case in point. Many either intentionally avoid them or do not think to include them in their diets. This is too bad, because research has shown that beans:
If you are not eating beans, I’d like you to reconsider. In this article, I’ll explore each of these claims in some detail. In the next, I’ll address some of the popular objections against beans.
Beans Slow Aging
Have you heard about red wine and the French’s longevity? It turns out that an ingredient found in wine, called resveratrol, might prevent the DNA damage that leads to aging. Some beans have resveratrol in amounts comparable to wine. Black beans and lentils are among the highest.1
Beans are Powerful Antioxidants
Free radical damage takes its toll on your skin, immune system and brain. You may know that antioxidants from foods like blueberries, green tea, turmeric and pomegranate can prevent this damage. Beans have as much or more antioxidants than these other foods. They also have unique antioxidants that can block enzymes, called ?-glucosidase and pancreatic lipase, that lead to weight gain and diabetes. Beans highest in these antioxidants include mung and aduki beans.2
Beans Lower Blood Pressure
Over eight studies have been carefully done to see if adding beans to the diet could improve blood pressure. All studies showed that bean intake significantly lowered systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure.3 The types studied included pinto, navy, northern, peas and black beans.
Beans Prevent Cancer
Cancer is second only to heart disease when it comes to adult death. The most common types of cancer for adults include breast, liver, colorectal, prostate and gastric. Not only do beans dramatically reduce the risk of all of these types of cancers,4,5 but an extract of beans, called IP6, is being studied as a possible medicine to combat cancer.6
Beans Lower Cholesterol
Adding as little as one serving of beans daily can lower the dangerous LDL-C enough to decrease the risk of heart disease by up to 25%.7
Beans Reduce Cravings
Ever struggle with cravings for sweets or snack foods? Beans can help reduce cravings and cause you to prefer healthier foods.
In a study, 42 people had roughly four ounces of chick peas added to their daily diets for four weeks. By the end of twelve weeks, participants were spontaneously eating less food from all sources, especially snack foods made from flour products, like chips and crackers. Bowel regularity and overall digestive symptoms improved significantly for the group.8
Beans Raise Energy and Help Weight Loss
In another recent study, thirty-five obese men were randomly assigned to one of four diets for eight weeks, one of which was high in beans. Their weight, body composition, cholesterol levels and metabolic rate were all measured before and after the dietary change. The group on the high-bean diet saw health improvements, such as substantial fat loss, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a higher rate of energy production over the eight-week period.9
Beans Improve the Intestinal Flora
You likely know how good bacteria are important to good immune function, skin repair and regular digestion. These organisms help because they produce short chain fats that heal our intestinal lining and lower the risks of colorectal cancer. We get tiny amounts of short chain fats from foods like coconut and butter; however, the vast majority, like butyrate, acetate and propionate, are made by intestinal bacteria when they are given the types of fiber found in beans. One of the easiest ways to keep your good flora strong is to eat beans regularly.10
Beans Kill Fungus
Processed food, antibiotics, oral contraceptives and stress can all lead to intestinal yeast. Yeast is bad because it weakens your immune system and creates toxins that raise inflammation. Compounds found in beans have been shown to kill fungus and prevent yeast infections.11
Bonus: You likely know how important getting your 5-10 servings of veggies can be. Did you know that beans count as a vegetable?12
The next installment in this blog will discuss the paleo concerns about beans, how to eat them without getting gas and some new ways to work them into your diet. If you want to get started right away, here is a trick you haven’t heard before: Try adding ¼ – ½ cup of cooked and rinsed navy beans to your morning smoothie. I know it sounds weird, but just try it. You won’t taste them, and they make the texture rich and creamy. Beans in the morning are especially powerful to rev up your metabolism for the whole day.
1. Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1. Mejia Eg, Prisecaru V. Lectins as bioactive plant proteins: a potential in cancer treatment. Crit 2005;45(6):425-45.
2. Sreerama YN1, Takahashi Y, Yamaki K. Phenolic antioxidants in some Vigna species of legumes and their distinct inhibitory effects on ?-glucosidase and pancreatic lipase activities. J Food Sci. 2012 Sep;77(9):C927-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02848.x. Epub 2012 Aug 13.
3. Jayalath VH, de Souza RJ, Sievenpiper JL, Ha V, Chiavaroli L, Mirrahimi A, Di Buono M, Bernstein AM, Leiter LA, Kris-Etherton PM, Vuksan V, Beyene J, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. Effect of dietary pulses on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials. Am J Hypertens. 2014 Jan;27(1):56-64. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpt155. Epub 2013 Sep 7.
4. Pusztai Arpad, Bardocz Susan. Lectins: Biomedical Perspectives. CRC Press. 2005. Pg 178-181, 212.
5. Camry I, Janssen T. et al. Lectin-induced alterations on the proliferation of three human prostatic cancer cell lines.In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Animal
1 November/December 1996, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 633-639.
6. Vucenik I1, Shamsuddin AM.Cancer inhibition by inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) and inositol: from laboratory to clinic. J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11 Suppl 1):3778S-3784S.
Vucenik I1, Shamsuddin AM.Protection against cancer by dietary IP6 and inositol. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(2):109-25.
7. Ha V, Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, et al. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ 2014;186:E252-62. – See more at: http://beaninstitute.com/latest-research/#sthash.NLkKmzeP.dpuf.
8. Murty CM1, Pittaway JK, Ball MJ. Chickpea supplementation in an Australian diet affects food choice, satiety and bowel health. Appetite. 2010 Apr;54(2):282-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.11.012. Epub 2009 Nov 27.
9. Abete I1, Parra D, Martinez JA. Legume-, fish-, or high-protein-based hypocaloric diets: effects on weight loss and mitochondrial oxidation in obese men. J Med Food. 2009 Feb;12(1):100-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2007.0700.
10. Feregrino-Pérez AA1, Berumen LC, García-Alcocer G, Guevara-Gonzalez RG, Ramos-Gomez M, Reynoso-Camacho R, Acosta-Gallegos JA, Loarca-Piña G.Composition and chemopreventive effect of polysaccharides from common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) on azoxymethane-induced colon cancer. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24;56(18):8737-44. doi: 10.1021/jf8007162. Epub 2008 Aug 29.
11. Ng TB1, Wong JH, Fang EF. Defensins and other biocidal proteins from bean seeds with medicinal activities. Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(36):5644-54.
12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/indicatorreport/ – See more at: http://beaninstitute.com/dry-bean-consumption-in-the-us/#sthash.54OHu5Pr.dpuf.