This week on More Good Day Oregon, I cooked up a batch of Spicy Black Beans. Check out the video below to see me prepare the beans step-by-step, then keep reading to find out how beans reduce cancer risk, regulate blood pressure, and promote healthy digestion.
Beans: the humble hero that over-delivers like a superfood
Beans, legumes and dried peas — collectively known as pulses — are a key part of my daily meal planning and preparation. I have them at least once a day, often twice.
Why do I like beans and lentils and the rest of the pulses so much? Because they're winners on so many levels: budget-friendly, family-friendly, delicious, convenient, versatile — and, of course, nutritious.
Legumes are packed with protein and fiber — which keeps your hunger at bay for longer. In addition, they contain important nutrients such as iron, zinc, folate, calcium, and potassium.
Plus, they accomplish all of this while being naturally low in saturated fat as well as cholesterol-free!
The health benefits of eating beans
Reduced cancer risk
As reported in How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute of Cancer Research published the landmark Second Expert Report: Food, Nutrition, Physical activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. This massive effort involved a team of some 200 scientists examining 500,000 studies to determine public health goals and personal recommendations for cancer prevention. The experts' findings included this very simple advice: eat whole grains and/or legumes at every meal. Every meal, people!
Improved blood sugar stabilization
The American Diabetes Association recommends beans and legumes as a healthy protein source that is also low on the glycemic index. Here's a fun fact: a 1982 study found that the consumption of lentils helped blunt the sugar spike of foods consumed hours later — not just during the meal when the beans were actually eaten.
Lower blood pressure
Nearly 30% of Americans live with hypertension, or high blood pressure. All beans are considered heart healthy because they contain fiber, protein and iron to help lower cholesterol. They also contain magnesium and calcium to help regulate a healthy blood pressure. In addition, they're packed with potassium, which is a key nutrient for healthy blood pressure. Legumes with the highest amounts of potassium per cup include white, Lima, pinto, kidney and navy beans, as well as split peas, lentils and soybeans.
Enhance digestion and gut health
Lentils, beans and other legumes include fiber, which provides bulk to the stool and help regulate healthy bowel movement. The fiber from beans also provides prebiotics to “feed” the good bacteria within our intestinal tract.
Beans, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds, contain special compounds called phytates. These compounds were once considered to be harmful due to a 1949 study using puppies. However, the effect of phytates on humans has since been collected, and a study published by the Journal of Medicinal Food concluded that dietary phytate consumption had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should actually be what’s considered an osteoporosis risk factor.
Facing the fear of farting
Even though most people are aware that beans are beneficial, there's still some resistance to adopting this magical food.
Or, magical fruit, as the rhyme goes.
Because people are afraid they'll get gas. And that's embarrassing.
Well, maybe not for 10 year olds, like my son. Or boys of all ages, like my husband. They think it's hilarious, right?
But for the rest of us, flatulence can be embarrassing.
Although when you look at the actual data, it turns out that a certain amount of flatulence is normal — for example, 14-22 times a day. And beans aren't the only potential culprit — foods such as dairy, meat, and eggs are common triggers. Even more so than beans.
So if you're worried about the extra gas, here's something to keep in mind: here's what Harvard Medical School has to say about it: “A little bit of extra flatulence could be an indication that you're eating the way you should!”
Tips for making beans easier to digest
Now that you know all of the amazing benefits that beans can bring to the party, I hope you won't let a fear of flatulence keep you from enjoying them on a regular — if not daily — basis.
Maybe this will help: if you do experience any increased flatulence from eating more beans, it's typically short-term. Over time, the body adapts, and less excess gas is produced.
And if you're still worried about potential gassiness, here are some tips to help:
- To improve the digestibility of the beans, soak them overnight and discard the soak water. You can repeat this several times before you actually cook the beans.
- When cooking the beans, add a strip of dried kombu, a sea vegetable you can find in the Asian foods aisle or online. Kombu contains certain amino acids that can help break down the starch found in legumes and pulses.
- If you're using canned beans, look for Eden Organic. Most of the varieties I've seen have been cooked with kombu… and without salt!
- Try getting started with lentils, split peas and canned beans. Those tend to be easier to digest.
- Start small. If you're new to eating beans, start with small amounts, such as a couple of tablespoons of beans on top of a salad. Increase the amount gradually, over a period of weeks.
Download the freebie: 3 delicious bean recipes
Super excited about this… I created a special freebie to help you incorporate beans into your daily diet!
It's a printable PDF — Eat Your Beans: 3 Delicious and Protein Packed Recipes to Try.
Inside this free and downloadable PDF, you'll find:
Recipe #1 — Curried Coconut Lentil Soup, one of my most popular recipes
Recipe #2 — Spicy Black Beans, perfect for bowls, burritos, and soups
Recipe #3 — Cannelini Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Olives and Basil. Delicious for picnics and parties!
All of the recipes are plant-based, gluten-free, and dairy-free. I hope you find them as delicious as I do 🙂
If you try the recipes, tag me over on Instagram — I’d love to see your kitchen creations.
Have fun in the kitchen!