Beans – the Closest Tie to LongevityBy Mary Clifton, MD
Beans are the most consistent dietary link among people who thrive in different populations around the world. Consuming beans as a regular source of protein appears to extend your life and add to the quality of your life in a more consistent way than any other dietary intervention. People who eat beans regularly enjoy a lower body weight, less belly fat and lower blood pressure than people who forgo beans. Rather than chuckling about the gas-producing effects of beans, bean and tofu eaters should be grinning about their wickedly good health.
In one study, people who ate three or more servings of beans per week dramatically reduced their risk of pre-diabetes. We think this is because the fiber in beans is excellent food for the healthy bacteria that live in the colon. When these healthy bacteria are thriving, sugar levels stabilize.
Researchers studied bean consumption in comparison to caloric restriction for weight loss. Study participants were asked to eat five cups of beans each week, without any further advice regarding restriction to other food groups. Bean consumption was as effective as portion control in reducing risk factors related to metabolic syndrome.
Beans also contain a wide range of cancer-fighting chemicals, especially isoflavones and phytosterols. Beans provide a heaping helping of soluble fiber – 15 grams in one cup of black beans. About ten grams of fiber daily has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent. Beans also contain saponins and phytosterols that also help lower cholesterol.
On a cautionary note, beans contain some substances that interfere with the absorption of beta-carotene and vitamins B12 and D. Cooking beans thoroughly not only promotes easy digestion, but also inactivates most of these substances so that vitamin absorption is not an issue. Consider adding herbs like lemon balm, kombu, fennel or caraway during cooking to improve digestibility.
Humms is a great way to add more beans to your diet. Dr. Mary loves the Sabra brand classic singles to take her beans on the road.
Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD