Whether they’re big or small, round or long, red, green, yellow, black or everything in between, beans are a go-to food for healthy eating.
Beans have been a diet staple for tens of thousands of years; in fact, they’re one the longest-cultivated crops in history, with archaeological evidence showing that beans were being grown and harvested in Thailand thousands of years before they made their way to Europe and the Americas around 2000 BC.
It’s not surprising that the humble bean has played a major role in feeding the human race; they’re hardy, easy to grow, and simple to store for long periods. They taste great and can be used in countless ways. And most important of all, they’re a nutritional powerhouse.
What’s In A Bean?
Beans are a truly healthy food, delivering plenty of essential nutrition in a high-fiber, low calorie package.
Protein: Though soybeans are the only beans that contain complete protein, all bean varieties contain high levels of all but one of the amino acids that make up complete protein. The missing amino acid is readily available in other foods like whole wheat bread or brown rice, however, and if eaten together or even on the same day the combination will form complete dietary protein.
One cup of beans supplies about 16 grams of protein, which is more than a quarter of the daily total protien requirement for adults. Protien is essential for the growth and maintenance of body tissues, fighting infection, healing wounds, and regulating the production and processing of hormones and enzymes.
Vitamins and minerals: Beans are high in vitamin B, which is crucial to many aspects of health ranging from brain function to cardiovascular efficiency. They also contain a significant amount of iron, which prevents anemia and related disorders.
Complex carbohydrates: Beans are a goldmine of complex carbohydrates, which are the basic fuel the body uses to produce energy. One cup of beans provides about 15 grams of low to moderate glycemic index carbohydrates, the type of carbs that provide lasting evergy by releasing slowly into the system over time. The slow-release characteristic of the carbohydrates in beans is a major plus for dieters because a serving will leave you feeling fuller longer.
Fiber: A single cup of cooked beans can supply half the daily fiber requirement for an adult. Not only does fiber play an important role in digestive regularity, it has also been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol, lowering the risk of some types of cancer, and maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.
In addition, beans are low calorie (many varieties weigh in at about 100 calories per half-cup serving) and extremely low fat. Only soybeans contain a nutritionally significant amount of fat, and even they qualify as a low fat, heart-healthy food with only about 10% of their total calories coming from fat.