Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart…

“Beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat them, the more you….”  Beans get a bad rap for the inconvenient, and at times, embarrassing flatulence that they may cause.  Aside from gas, which can be curbed by soaking the beans and drinking plenty of water, beans are great additions to your diet and can pave the way to great health.  (See more on water here.)

Beans are actually a part of the legume family, which also includes peas and lentils. These bean-like foods carry similar health attributes and are likewise recommended for a healthy diet. Below are just a few of the benefits of beans and other legumes.

  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Improve blood glucose control
  • Reduce risk of many cancers
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Regulate functions of the colon
  • Prevent and cure constipation and other bowel problems

Beans and legumes are not only great sources of protein and carbohydrates, but also fiber, potassium, and B-vitamins.  They’re considered incomplete sources of protein because they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein).  However, when paired with foods such as–brown rice, corn, nuts, seeds, and whole wheat foods–your body will be supplied with all of the protein that it needs.  The soluble fiber in beans contributes to its benefits of regulating colon function and lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels (read more on fiber here).  Meanwhile, the potassium in beans aids in balancing blood pressure. Although it’s best to cook up raw/dried beans, if using canned, make sure to use the low-sodium varieties. (Read more about BPA to give you one more reason to cook up dried beans!)

Although pomegranates and green tea seem to get all the praise, beans are also great sources of antioxidants.  One study found beans to be clear winners with one-half cup of red beans yielding 13,727 antioxidants; red kidney beans, 13,259; pinto beans, 11,864; and black beans, 4,191.

The great thing about beans (that I learned very quickly living on a tight budget in NYC!) is that they certainly allow your paycheck to go a long way.  A 16-ounce bag of dried beans for $1.29-1.69 can make up to 12 servings of a bean dish.  Additionally, there is a huge variety of beans and other legumes to choose from.  These include (are you ready…): kidney beans, soy beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans, lentils (brown, red, and green), black beans, black eyes peas, broad beans, red beans, butter beans, fava beans, great northern beans, navy beans, pinto beans, split peas (yellow and green), white beans, and the list could certainly continue.

The important thing is to eat the kind of beans that you like, and gradually expand with new recipes.  Check out the bean recipes on the Gain Great Health Recipes page.  Feel free to share some of your favorite bean dishes so others can benefit!

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