Something smells yummy coming from the kitchen. There it is! A bowl of pinto beans that have been simmering all day, topped with a mound of freshly chopped onions, along with a slab of warm-from-the-oven cornbread with crusty edges, and a big glass of cold milk. Now, that’s a great meal in anyone’s book. A feast to many in fact. That’ll take the edge off any hunger pangs and keep them off for a good long while. That’s actually one of the many benefits of a diet rich in beans – eating them helps stave off hunger and helps with weight management, among their other benefits.
What are the benefits of eating beans?
In a word – many. Beans are known to be high in antioxidants, rich in fiber, an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc.
A regular diet of beans can assist with decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and help with managing weight goals. For those dealing with diabetes, beans are considered a superfood. They can slow the rise in blood sugars and help increase energy levels. The B vitamins in beans help keep brain and nerve cells healthy; calcium maintains strong bones and teeth; potassium reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke; and folate protects the heart and reduces cancer risks. For LDL cholesterol management, a daily intake of ½ to 1 ½ cups of navy beans results in a 10 percent reduction.
Beans can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and are considered a replacement for red meat. This makes beans an excellent protein source for those on a vegetarian or gluten-free food plans.
Beans also benefit your budget; they are considered the least expensive source of protein (a one pound bag usually averages less than $2.00). Plus, they can be purchased in a variety forms – from dried, flash frozen, fresh, or canned. If you buy canned beans, rinsing them will help reduce the salt intake. Dried beans have a long shelf life and can be kept in a waterproof container for up to two years, or longer if hermetically sealed.
Beans are so versatile. They can be a stand-alone side dish, the main dish, or be added to soups, salads, pasta dishes, stews, or roasted as a healthy snack.
How many types of beans are there?
A lot to be succinct. There’s the kidney bean, which has a somewhat thick skin, but tastes great in homemade chili. Soybeans, the lentil bean family (red, green, and brown lentils), lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, red beans, butter beans, great northern beans, navy, pinto, and white beans. Adzuki beans, perhaps a lesser-known bean, are used in many Asian dishes and in sweets. Mung beans, used in sweet or savory Indian dishes, are one of the smallest beans; however, they are rich in fiber (1 cup equates to 15 grams of fiber). These are just some of the varieties to select from. With such a variety, beans can be a welcome addition to any meal.
What about side effects of beans?
A word of caution, beans can be a migraine trigger to some.
Also, to avoid the gas often associated with beans, change the water frequently when soaking dried beans and rinse canned beans. Adding herbs, lemon balm, or caraway may help reduce gas. Plus, there are over-the-counter remedies available.
Cold weather is a great time to try out some new ways to incorporate beans into your diet with soups and stews. White beans and ham soup is delicious on a cold, wintery night. Explore the web or pull out your cookbooks for some new bean-based recipes. Enjoy the healthy benefits of beans!