Should You Eat More Beans?

Should You Eat More Beans?

Beans and greens — the heart and soul of a nutritionally sound vegetarian diet. But beans aren’t just for those deriving their nutrition almost exclusively from the plant kingdom. Almost everyone should eat more beans because they help so much in reaching nutritional goals.

What’s so wonderful about beans?

Beans have a variety of health benefits you cannot afford to miss:

  • Beans have lots of soluble fiber, so they play an important role in keeping LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in check. In other words, beans are heart healthy! Beans can also make it much easier to reach the recommended 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed.
  • Beans are a very good source of plant-based protein. Even if you’re eating fish or chicken, beans can add to your daily protein intake.
  • In addition to their fiber, the complex carbs in beans have a low glycemic index, so they prevent insulin spikes that predispose your body to storing calories as fat. Eating beans daily can improve insulin sensitivity and aid in weight management.
  • Beans are a good source of phytochemicals and may reduce the risk of cancer, even if you are consuming only a few cups per week.
  • Beans have a high satiety value and also keep you regular. ‘Nuff said.
  • Beans are loaded with minerals and vitamins: magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, and folate.
  • Beans have lots of resistant starch, so they can enhance colon health and balance intestinal flora, thereby promoting immune function.

Beans are also versatile. You can eat them as a stand-alone entrée, or as part of another dish like chili. Either way, you should be eating more beans, at least three cups per week, and preferably more, unless you have a few specific health concerns.

Okay, so who shouldn’t be eating more beans?

Even though we can recommend beans unreservedly for most people, they can cause problems in a few. It’s important to know this before you add lots of beans to your diet so that you can proceed cautiously.

  • If you are prone to gout, the eating large amounts of beans can make your condition worse.
  • Beans contain lectins and saponins, so individuals with leaky gut syndrome, IBS, or intestinal inflammation of any type must proceed with extreme caution. Some will need to avoid beans altogether.
  • If you have FODMAP (a particular type of carbohydrate) sensitivity, as many IBS and leaky gut sufferers do, then beans should probably be avoided.
  • If you have absorption issues, then the phytates in beans should be approached with caution. If beans are soaked overnight, and cooked properly, most people will not be adversely affected by the phytates in beans.

Make sure that if you eat beans, you enjoy a variety of them, and occasionally sprout or ferment them for additional health benefits. Beans are an unusually economical, versatile, and delicious way to improve health for most people. Almost everyone should eat more beans!