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Beans, beans are good for the heart.  The more you eat, the more you….

…need to know about their health benefits.  Right?

For years we’ve heard about the benefits of high fiber.  Why?  Because fiber has been shown to stabilize blood sugar, help with weight loss and improve symptoms of diverticulitis and IBS.   Fiber also lowers cholesterol and lessens your risk of colorectal and breast cancer.  Actually, studies show that a diet rich in fiber helps you live longer.  Period.

What’s Considered High-Fiber? 

The recommended daily amount of fiber is around 30g daily depending on your health goals.  Does this sound difficult for you?  It’s actually quite easy to achieve if your plate is centered around whole and natural foods.  A great source of fiber is, as you can probably guess, beans and legumes.

What Are The Most Common Types of Beans?

When we talk about beans, we’re talking about a wide variety of legumes known as chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans and lentils.  What you might not realize is that green peas, split peas, snap peas and wax beans are also in the same family.

Why Are Beans Favored by Vegans?

Beans have a great balance of macronutrients making them a favored protein source for vegans.  One cup of beans, on average, offers approximately 23% protein or 15g per serving.  It is also shown that beans are high in an essential amino acid, lysine, which is not found in many other plant foods. It is important for vegans to eat a variety of plant foods to ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of amino acids.  It was once believed that these essential amino acids needed to be combined at each meal.  However, studies have shown that the liver stores essential amino acids and therefore it is no longer a requirement for vegans to eat their essential amino acids in one sitting.

What Are Some Common Nutrients Found in Different Beans?

Many of the commonly known beans have similar nutrients. They tend to have a healthy ratio of protein, are high in folate and key minerals like phosphorus, iron and potassium.  Here’s a list of some of the nutrient superstars:

Black Beans = Lots of Magnesium

Green Beans = High in Vitamin C

Chickpeas = 98% of Manganese RDI

Kidney Beans = High in Choline

Lentils = 15g of fiber per cup

 

What are Some of the Other Benefits Associated with Beans?

Other than being full of necessary minerals, fiber and protein, here are some lesser known benefits to eating beans:

  1. Beans are high in an antioxidant called polyphenols. These are known to help fight coronary heart disease and inflammation in the body.
  2. The fiber and complex starches found in beans can help control appetite and prevent food cravings.
  3. Since beans are packed with B vitamins, they are also helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with chronic stress.
  4. Beans are a diabetes super-food! The combination of high fiber and protein create a slower digestion which maintains blood sugar levels.  One cup of black beans has almost 15g of fiber.
  5. Most beans are high in folate. Folate is responsible for DNA synthesis and repair, helping to prevent cancer cell formation.

 

Why Do Many People Avoid Beans?

One of the most common reasons people tend to avoid beans is because they can cause flatulence and bloating.  This often happens as beans contain a fiber and lectin that our body cannot digest.  When these food particles enter the GI tract, our gut flora digests them creating gas as a byproduct.  The good news is that there is a way around this problem.

Soaking and Cooking: Taking the time to soak and cook your beans will drastically reduce the amount of gas they create in the gut.  It is important, however, that you do not cook your beans in their soaking liquid.  The longer they soak/cook – the more these proteins and fibers are broken down; making it easier for your body to digest them.

Sprouting: As with soaking and cooking, most of the lectin is contained in the seed coat.  As the beans are sprouted, the coat breaks down.  The longer they sprout, the less lectins they contain.  However, kidney beans are never to be eaten raw and sprouting them increases their lectin to a dangerously high amount.  Alfalfa sprouts actually increase lectin content also.

Fermenting: This allows beneficial bacteria to begin digesting the food before it is ingested. Fermented soy, cabbage and even grains are said to provide better nutrition and an easier digestion.  If you’ve eaten sourdough bread, you’ve already had the benefit of eating a fermented grain.

 

Are Lectins Bad for Your Health?

Let’s start by explaining what lectins are and how they impact your health.

Lectins are a type of protein that has been found to have negative and positive effects on the body.  In plants, it protects the seed from insects and provides nitrogen to help it grow.  In humans, lectins cannot be digested and can block the absorption of certain nutrients.

Although lectins can aid in disease prevention, when a food particle is undigested, the body initiates an immune response or attack.  The symptoms of this immune response can vary depending on the individual’s current state.  With high levels of lectins in your diet, the lining of the intestines can become slower to heal causing a form of “leaky gut”.  You see, our intestines are meant to absorb the good and contain the bad.  As this happens, our gut gets damaged and it is important that it heals at a quick rate.  Lectins slow down this rate of healing.  When our gut lining is compromised, larger food particles and toxicity may be reabsorbed into the bloodstream causing a wide variety of symptoms such as brain fog, allergies and joint pain.

Which brings us back to soaking, cooking and sprouting your beans.  Beans are seeds.  And seed coats are protected by lectins.  When you soak, cook or sprout your beans the lectins are broken down in a way that your body can process them with less harm.

Is Sprouting Beans the Most Nutritious Way to Eat Them?

As we mentioned, soaking, cooking and sprouting all help to deactivate lectins in the beans.  However, sprouting has been shown to offer many different health benefits.  Other than breaking down lectins, sprouting also breaks down phytates.  Phytates tend to inhibit absorption of vitamins and minerals.  Sprouting helps to increase the availability of these nutrients.  Sprouting also helps to break down starches which make the beans easier to digest.   It is believed that germinating a seed creates a synergistic energy that is transferred when eaten; making you feel more “alive”

So, to recap, beans are high in fiber and protein.  They help regulate blood sugar, reduce cravings and support your immune system with their high antioxidant content.

Here are two great recipes that can get you exploring different varieties of beans and legumes.  We hope you enjoy them:

Chicken & Lentil Salad

 

Shrimp Skewers & Green Beans


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