Healthy Eating: Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit

By Marsha Hudnall
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Beans
I know that’s not the way that old ditty usually goes, but beans are as magical as they are musical. 

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!

5 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Fitness Health Zone says:

    Well I have visited a lot of weight loss blogs but this something different than others and interesting too for everyone who are tired of dieting…keep the good work going on…

  • Marsha says:

    Thanks for your comment. I checked out your blog and like a lot of your healthy eating information. As you may or may not know, we don’t encourage folks to count calories or lose weight fast, so wouldn’t support a few of your posts. But the info about whole grains, and generally good info that i just skimmed in your posts, looks great.

  • Maril says:

    Hi everyone, I think you’ll find this article on cinnamon, insulin resitance and PCOS to be relevant. It says there was a recent pilot study at Columbia University showing that consumption of cinnamon reduced insulin resistance in 15 PCOS women. It sounds like taking cinnamon extract is beneficial.

  • Marsha says:

    I’ve heard this about cinnamon, Maril, but hesitate to recommend anything based on results in 15 women. Generally, it’s considered wise to look for evidence based on studies in large numbers of people. It’s a tough call, though, because it doesn’t seem there would be anything harmful about using cinnamon in large quantities, but not sure about that either! Bottom line: I always recommend folks to do lots of research before they engage in any ‘treatment’ for any problem. Sometimes the treatments can cause more harm than good (although, again, not sure cinnamon would cause any problem. I’m just not educated enough about that to say).

  • I’ve basically been doing nothing to speak of. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I feel like a void, but that’s how it is. I’ve just been hanging out doing nothing.

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