Beans are among the most versatile and commonly eaten foods throughout the world, and many varieties are grown in the U.S. Because of their nutritional composition, these economical foods have the potential to improve the diet quality and long-term health of those who consume beans regularly.
Beans are among the most versatile and commonly eaten foods throughout the world, and many varieties are grown in the U.S. Because of their nutritional composition, these economical foods have the potential to improve the diet quality and long-term health of those who consume beans regularly
- The Nutrient content/ Value of beans
|Calories (kcal)||Total Fat (g)||Saturated Fat (g)||Trans Fat (g)||Cholesterol (mg)||Sodium (mg)||Total Carbohydrate (g)||Fiber (g)||Protein (g)|
|Daily Values (DV) used on Nutrition Facts labels||2,000||Less than 65||Less
|Less than 2,400||300||25||50
The Nutritional Benefits of Beans
Elevated blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, are significant contributing factors to heart disease. High plasma levels of homocysteine have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Although some studies have shown that folate may lower homocysteine levels and, therefore, heart disease risk, the topic remains controversial and more research is needed
A varied diet low in saturated fat with ample fiber (especially soluble) and B vitamins are among the recommendations for reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors. Several studies have shown that regular consumption of beans can help lower total and LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease. One study showed a 38 percent lower risk of nonfatal heart attack when a cup of cooked beans was consumed daily]. Other researchers reported significant reductions in blood cholesterol levels when canned beans were consumed on a daily basis.
In an eight-week study, researchers studied the influence of daily consumption of ½ cup of pinto beans, black-eyed peas or carrots on blood cholesterol levels. Among participants consuming ½ cup of pinto beans per day, total and LDL cholesterol levels decreased by more than 8 percent. Participants consuming black-eyed peas or carrots did not experience a significant change in total or LDL cholesterol. Pinto beans and other dry edible beans contain significantly more dietary fiber (specifically soluble fiber) than black-eyed peas and carrots, likely resulting in this decrease in cholesterol.
Diabetes is becoming more prevalent throughout the world as the global obesity epidemic continues. Eating a variety of legumes, including beans, may be valuable not only in the prevention of diabetes but also in the management of blood sugar levels . Beans are rich in complex carbohydrates (such as dietary fiber), which are digested more slowly. As a result, bean consumption has been shown to increase feelings of fullness and help regulate plasma glucose and insulin levels after meals. Legume fiber was among the fiber types associated with reducing risk for metabolic syndrome, which includes glucose disturbances and increased risk of diabetes.
According to a recent study, regularly consuming beans as part of a low-glycemic-index diet improved blood glucose management, reduced systolic blood pressure and decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Participants with Type 2 diabetes mellitus were placed randomly on a high-legume diet (consuming 1 cup per day) or on a high-insoluble-fiber diet with whole-wheat foods. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measure of long-term glycemic control, was measured after three months. The group consuming the high-legume diet experienced a significant decrease in HbA1c and reduced their calculated heart disease risk scores.
The role of bean-containing diets related to cancer risk has been the subject of ongoing studies . Eating beans may reduce the risk for developing certain types of cancers due to their contribution of bioactive compounds to the diet, including flavonoids, tannins, phenolic compounds and other antioxidants. These compounds act to decrease the risk of cancer, as well as other chronic diseases. Other researchers have shown that beans may have a synergistic effect when consumed in a diet containing other antioxidant-rich foods (such as fruits and vegetables) by decreasing oxidation in the body and reducing the overall cancer risk.
Bean intake has been associated with a decreased risk of breast, stomach, colorectal, kidney and prostate cancers in human and animal studies. In particular, the dietary fiber content of beans may play a role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancers. For example, a study that examined the impact of dietary fiber intake on the development of colon polyps in a cancer survivor cohort found that people who consumed more fiber, specifically fiber from legumes and cooked green vegetables, including green beans and peas, were less likely to show a recurrence of polyps than others.
Beans, Color and Antioxidants
Beans are high in natural antioxidants. The color of the bean coat appears to affect the antioxidant capacity because this correlates with total phenolic content of the bean. Colored beans (red, brown or black) possess greater antioxidant activity than white beans. Furthermore, some of these antioxidant compounds are lost during typical preparation and cooking methods, although significant amounts of antioxidants still remain.
Obesity and Overweight
Even though beans are not often promoted as a weight-loss food, regularly consuming nutrient-rich legumes may impact weight loss or management, although more research is needed. According to results from the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey 1999 to 2002, people who consumed beans regularly had a lower body weight, lower waist circumference and lower systolic blood pressure, in addition to a greater intake of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron and copper. According to the results of studies conducted in Brazil, a traditional diet high in rice and beans was associated with a lower body mass index (BMI), compared with a typical Western diet containing more fat, snacks and soda.
Consuming beans may contribute to feelings of short-term satiety as a result of the beans’ fiber and protein content. In a study of 35 obese men fed four different protein-rich diets, the diet providing the majority of protein from legumes (including beans) induced the greatest amount of weight loss in an eight-week period. The group instructed to eat legumes at least four days a week also experienced significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat mass, blood pressure and total cholesterol when compared with the other groups.
Researchers have studied the role of hormones, including leptin and ghrelin, in regulating appetite and weight. Researchers determined the leptin and ghrelin levels in 36 insulin-sensitive and 28 insulin-resistant men. Leptin levels decreased among the group consuming a diet enriched with legumes. When leptin is present in smaller concentrations, it is more effective in regulating appetite and may aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.
Bean Benefits for Children
Childhood obesity is a continuing concern in North America and around the world, reaching epidemic proportions. Many strategies have been suggested to prevent and treat obesity during the childhood years, usually focusing on restricting caloric intake. Some have suggested that emphasizing plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in children’s diets would help prevent obesity. Incorporating beans into the diet of children can help children maintain healthy weights, as well as promote overall health.
Most children do not consume the recommended amount of dietary fiber in their diets. Because of the role fiber plays in satiety, inadequate fiber intake may contribute greatly to overeating high empty-calorie foods and weight gain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes the health benefits beans offer children and now requires that students from kindergarten through 12th grade be offered at least ½ cup of beans per week as part of new guidelines for school meals.
Beans in Special Diets
An increasing number of people are following special diets, such vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. While each special diet has different requirements, a common factor among them is that certain foods that normally would provide vital nutrients are eliminated. Beans can play a role in providing a variety of nutrients for individuals following these diets.
For example, people with celiac disease should consume a diet that is free of gluten, a protein found in many grain products. They must eliminate these products from their diet, which increases the risk for deficiencies in several B-vitamins and other nutrients that typically are found in grains. Beans are a naturally gluten-free food, and they provide many of the same vitamins and minerals often found in enriched grain products, including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron and fiber. Bean flour may be particularly beneficial to those following gluten-free diets because bean flours can be combined with other gluten-free flours (such as rice or tapioca flour).
Those following vegetarian or vegan diets depend on plant foods to provide important nutrients often found in animal products, such as protein, iron and zinc. While vegetarians may consume dairy or eggs, those following a vegan diet consume no animal-based products. Those following a vegan diet may eat less saturated fat, cholesterol and more dietary fiber; however, those following a vegan diet may be lacking in vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium or omega-3 fats unless they consume appropriate supplements. Beans can be a valuable part of any plant-based diet because they are rich in several nutrients and serve as a meat-alternative and contain the full complement of amino acids when paired with grains