I had this thought last night as I was spooning the remaining pea soup from the pot into a storage container. Maybe something only a dietitian would think of…. Still, the health benefits of beans are astounding. Besides their usually touted advantages such as having lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals, here are a couple more valuable reasons to become a bean eater:
- Regular consumption of beans may help improve cognitive performance (the old brain, folks) as we age. Seems the low glycemic index and its resultant positive influence on blood glucose levels is the culprit here. That’s good news for all of us, and especially relevant to people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- The folic acid in beans also plays a role in preserving cognitive functioning. It’s also a critical nutrient for helping to prevent birth defects. Women of childbearing age want to get plenty of folic acid on a regular basis, before they get pregnant, because the critical time is the first three weeks of pregnancy when we often don’t know we’re pregnant.
- Beans are good sources of prebiotics, which are the substrates that healthy colon flora thrive on. This promotes better gut function, improved mineral absorption, reduced blood cholesterol and improved immunity.
- High fiber foods are satiating (so we don’t eat quite as much), which obviously helps with weight management. In addition, research shows regular bean eaters tend to have smaller waistlines, probably a result of the low glycemic index again (larger waistlines are often an effect of insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels).
If all that’s not enough, consider the tastes of beans. There are a wide variety to choose from — chickpeas or garbanzo beans are great on salads; pinto beans (a staple in Texas where I was raised) are fabulous in chili; split pea soup is just yummy when made with onions, carrots, olive oil, or try it with Middle Eastern spices like tumeric, cumin and coriander. Baked beans are a staple of New England where I now reside; they’re good eating any time of year, whether on a cold snowy day or as part of a picnic lunch. Link to this great lentil stew recipe that we discovered on one of our Italian cooking tours.
Welcome to the magical world of beans!