The health benefits of beans have been getting a lot of attention in recent scientific studies. Beans can help lower the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, and the antioxidants in beans help prevent some types of cancer. Available in many different sizes and colors, most beans are inexpensive and easy to find. Their mild flavor blends beautifully with other flavors, making it easy to add the many health benefits of beans to your diet.
Beans are a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water. This type of fiber can actually lower cholesterol, because it binds with cholesterol particles in the bloodstream and removes them from the body. Insoluble fiber does not break down as it moves through the body. Instead, it adds bulk to the stools, a natural laxative effect that also helps alleviate problems associated with hemorrhoids. Both types of fiber have been shown to provide significant health benefits.
Protein is another one of the health benefits of beans. In beans, they are the richest source of vegetable protein available. Protein is vital for building strong muscles and repairing damaged tissues. Our bodies cannot make or store protein, so we must get adequate amounts from our diet. Beans, when combined with whole grain products such as rice, form complete, healthy proteins for vegans or others who are limiting their intake of animal products.
Antioxidants are compounds shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, most notably prostate and colorectal cancers. Beans are an excellent source of antioxidants. In a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2004, different foods were ranked by their antioxidant content. Of the top four foods rich in antioxidants, beans held three of the positions: small red beans ranked first, followed by red kidney beans in third and pinto beans in 4th.
If you suffer from diabetes, beans offer a source of complex carbohydrates that will not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar. Because the starches in beans take longer to break down, they have a low glycemic index. This means that sugar is released more slowly into the bloodstream, which keeps total glucose levels lower over a longer period of time. They are also low in calories, an excellent benefit if you are trying to watch your weight and still enjoy rich, satisfying meals.
Adding beans to your diet is a great way to add iron, folic acid, and magnesium as well as fiber and antioxidants. With so many different types to choose from, and so many different ways to serve them, you are sure to find a variety of ways to add the health benefits of beans to your diet.