Beans are very high on the list of the world’s healthiest foods, because they contain enough nutrients to replace a three-course meal. While they are relatively high in calories, beans are an incredibly valuable source of numerous vitamins and minerals that support a wide variety of important bodily functions. Here are some of the many benefits of beans that make them suitable for everyday consumption.
Keeps cholesterol levels in check
Beans are naturally cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and exceptionally high in soluble fiber. Regular consumption of this fiber greatly promotes removal of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Soluble fiber primarily binds to cholesterol-containing compounds in the small intestine and carries them out with the feces. Just one cup of most beans provides over 50 percent of a day’s worth of fiber. In addition to soluble fiber, many beans are rich in disease-fighting flavonoids that also help reduce the presence of LDL cholesterol.
Helps lower blood pressure
You can greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) by incorporating beans into your daily diet. The unique combination of plant protein and fiber in beans has an additive effect in lowering blood pressure, especially when they are consumed on a regular basis. Beans also contain large quantities of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which also play key roles in blood pressure regulation and the overall functioning of the circulatory system.
Supports strong, healthy bones
The calcium housed in beans makes them especially beneficial for maintaining healthy bones. Approximately 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in bone. As such, regular calcium intake is crucial for preserving the structure and strength of bones. Beans also contain other bone-friendly minerals like phosphorus and magnesium. Phosphorus encourages normal bone growth and maintenance while magnesium supports the body’s bone-building cells.
Natural source of energy
Beans are an excellent source of iron, which is critical for sustaining adequate energy levels for healthy functioning. Iron is needed for the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. Since all the body’s metabolic processes require a reliable supply of oxygen, a sufficient intake of iron is needed for optimal functioning. Classic signs of inadequate iron intake include lethargy, extreme fatigue, and general weakness.
Regulates blood sugar levels
The fiber in beans can substantially slow the digestion and absorption of glucose (sugar) from the small intestine. This inhibits sudden spikes in insulin, the hormone responsible for lowering glucose. The folate in beans also plays a beneficial role in controlling blood sugar. Folate combats insulin resistance, which is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to properly respond to the blood sugar lowering effects of insulin. An inadequate response to insulin is a major underlying cause of diabetes.
Promotes weight management
Beans contain countless nutrients that promote weight loss and long-term weight management. Such nutrients include carbohydrate fibers, protein, and folate. Due to their fiber and protein content, eating beans can greatly curb hunger by increasing feelings of fullness making it easier to eat less and lose weight. Furthermore, the fiber, protein, and folate in beans helps to control blood sugar levels in a way that’s especially beneficial for reducing visceral (belly) fat and overall body fat storage.
In addition to their high concentrations of health-promoting nutrients, beans are one of the most versatile food sources around. While they can most certainly stand alone beans also make a great addition to a variety of food preparations including salads, soups, casseroles, chili, and dips.