I’ve started eating a lot more beans. Why? They are healthy and cheap. They make me feel good, and it turns out they taste great if you prepare them right. Research shows that beans are even better if you have diabetes.
A woman in my neighborhood got me started. We were talking about diabetes, and she said she had been diagnosed with Type 2 five years ago. But she now eats beans with every meal, and all her numbers are back to normal, including her glucose tolerance test. I figured I should look into it.
Of course the first place to look is always Diabetes Self-Management‘s Amy Campbell. Here’s what she wrote in 2007:
“Beans are a rich source of protein. One cup of beans contains about 16 grams of protein, the same as 2 ounces of meat or chicken. People who are vegetarians typically use beans and bean products as their main source of protein. Beans contain no cholesterol…and only about 1 gram of fat (non of it saturated, either).”
That’s just the start. Amy says beans “also contains about 15 grams of [mostly-soluble] fiber…which can help lower cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease…Beans are also a great source of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as vitamin A and folate.”
That column was from five years ago. Since then, others have been shouting the praises of beans even more loudly. According to Jim Healthy, editor of the Web site My Healing Kitchen, “Beans are best for diabetes,” because “they are loaded with all-important fiber, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars in your bloodstream, assists your body’s insulin response to glucose, and helps you burn fat faster.” They will limit the spikes in glucose levels after meals. (See last week’s blog entry “Stop Spiking Those Sugars!”)
Healthy cites the research of James Anderson, MD, from the University of Kentucky, who found that people with Type 1 were able to reduce insulin use up to 38% by eating beans.
And a writer on Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong.com site wrote, “Beans are a superfood: rich in fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, yet low in fat and cholesterol free.” He mentions a study by JL Sievenpiper and associates that showed lowered fasting blood sugar levels and A1C levels in people who ate beans and other “pulses,” as this family of foods is called.
Edible beans include kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, soybeans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, and dried peas, and probably some more I haven’t heard of. Usually they do not have a strong taste, meaning that you can season them any way you want. You can find about 30 tasty recipes for beans on our site here, a whole bunch more at My Healing Kitchen, and at other Web sites such as The Bean Bible.
Beans might not just rock your world. They could help save it. As a vegetarian protein source, they are great for the environment. You can raise at least twenty pounds of bean protein with the same amount of land, water, and energy needed to raise one pound of meat protein. This means beans have a vastly lower “carbon footprint” than meats, and don’t have all pollution and contamination problems of meat. They also enrich soil instead of depleting it.
Important as well is that beans are cheap. Matt Jabs at Debt-Free Adventure says he lowered his family’s monthly food bill by almost 40% by using beans instead of meat. Jabs says you save more money by buying dry beans and cooking from scratch, instead of wet beans in cans.
Why don’t people eat more beans, then? You know, it’s the gas thing. But Amy Campbell has some answers for that, too:
• If you soak dry beans, discard the water and cook in fresh water. With canned beans, discard the can water and rinse them.
• Season with ginger, coriander, turmeric, fennel.
• Add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda to the soaking water.
• Lentils, black-eyed peas, lima beans, white beans, and chickpeas may be less gas-producing than kidney beans or black beans.
Campbell also says that your body will probably get used to beans over time and have less of a gas problem.
I’d give you some recipes of my own, but I’m not a very good cook. I’d love to hear yours. Great for health, budget, and the environment — beans really rock!
Want to learn more about beans? Read “The Beauty of Beans (Part 1),” “The Beauty of Beans (Part 2),” and “Beans May Improve Blood Glucose Control,” then try our recipes for Refried Beans, Quick White Bean Soup, and Black Beans and Rice.