When you hear the term “superfood,” I am not sure if beans would be the first thing that springs to mind.
It’s good to know that your health could get a serious kick start if you start including these superfoods into your diet everyday though. Why? Because beans pack a serious nutritional punch. They are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals that can help reduce inflammation, fend off chronic diseases, contribute to weight loss, improve gut health, and promote satiety.
Beans are high in protein
Incorporating beans into your diet is great way to increase your protein consumption. Half a cup of beans has roughly 7 grams of protein, which is about the same as an ounce of meat. By making the simple substitution of swapping the meat on your plate for beans, even for one or two days per week, you can incorporate more plants into your diet and lower your intake of fat, cholesterol, and calories while still meeting your protein needs.
Polyphenols: The connection between beans, sore muscles & cancer
Beans are high in polyphenols, a class of antioxidant. Polyphenols may help to lower high blood pressure and help boost the immune system through antibacterial effects. They also help to reduce inflammation and cell damage, which can help improve sore muscles after intense training. Beans have also been studied for helping prevent cancer. In one study scientists found that rats fed black or navy beans had a 75% reduced risk in the development of colon cancer. Of course, rats and humans function quite differently, but research does suggest that beans may help to reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
Fibre: Why beans are heart healthy
Beans are a great source of fibre, which is an indigestible plant material that has a number of health benefits. Dietary fibre slows the movement of food through your gut, which can help you feel fuller for longer and keep blood sugar spikes at bay. It's for these reasons that diets high in fibre have been linked to lower body weight, waist circumference, and body fat as well as a healthy insulin response. So, adding beans to a meal can help ward off that post-meal sluggishness, a side effect of blood sugar spikes.
Also, fibre and beans are also associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. As it is unable to be digested by humans, most types of fibre end up being fermented by the bacteria in our gut, making it a prebiotic. Prebiotics help to improve growth of good gut bacteria, prevent the growth of bad bacteria, improve the gut barrier, preventing things like leaky gut syndrome, and improve the immune system.
Folate: A critical B-vitamin for recovery
Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin that the body needs to produce new red blood cells. Otherwise, with insufficient levels of red blood cells, less oxygen may be delivered to the muscles, which can lead to fatigue and slower muscle tissue recovery. Folate assists in the production of DNA and RNA, which is not only critical for muscle repair, but also for healthy cells and preventing damage from free radicals.
Which beans are the healthiest?
The great thing about beans is that there’s seemingly and endless variety from which to choose. However, the top 5 rated healthiest beans are Chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, and black beans. These varieties tend to be the highest in fibre, folate and protein, and are the most effective at reducing post-meal blood sugar spikes. Having said that, all varieties of beans have nutritional benefits, and whichever type you like the best will do you a great deal of good!