By Dr. Stuart Offer
Beans are very good for your heart, in addition to many other health benefits. Research is conclusive that eating a diet rich in plant-based foods, especially beans, will reduce your risk of most, if not all, chronic diseases such as Type-2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis and some cancers (including prostate). It will also lower your cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure!
For example, research has shown that people who eat one 3-ounce serving of black beans a day decrease their risk of heart attack by an amazing 38 percent. In addition, these little guys have been shown to improve brain function and guard against memory loss.
If that wasn’t enough, beans will help you maintain a healthy weight. They’re low calorie, low fat, high protein and fiber help to fill you up so you eat fewer calories. In a previous column, I recommended that everyone should try reducing the quantity of meat, especially red meat, that you eat. Beans and lentils — both legumes — are my absolute favorite high protein foods that can substitute for meat.
These nutritional powerhouses are packed with protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, iron, phytochemicals and an arms length of other healthy vitamins and minerals. What we don’t get with these is fat or cholesterol. This combination gives us what achieves “super-food” status in their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Among all groups of commonly eaten food worldwide, no group has a more health-supportive effect than legumes, especially beans.
In addition, these guys are cheap and very versatile. If you are looking to cut your grocery bills and eat more nutritiously, beans are the answer; there is simply nothing in the store that is a better buy. The most common beans include adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, anasazi beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, cannellini (white kidney), red beans, northern and lima beans to name a few.
Use them whole in salads, soups, stews, pasta, side dishes, or puree them for use as a fat replacement in baked goods or thickener for soups and for dips.
If you are looking to try something new or different, stop in at a locally owned food market and visit their bulk section. Here you will find many varieties not available in the large supermarkets. If you are wondering if canned beans are as healthy as dried beans, the answer is yes they are. If buying canned, I would suggest rinsing the beans in water before using or choosing the low sodium variety.
By the way the other part of the bean rhyme is also true. The best way to reduce the musical effects of beans is to rinse canned beans thoroughly and or use Beano. Beano is a product you can buy that contains an enzyme that helps to better digest the beans. Also, as you eat beans more frequently, your digestive system will get more accustomed to them and you will be less gassy. I eat beans many times per week and to be honest no one is the wiser.
One of my favorite bean recipes is hummus. I use this as a dip for veggies and as a spread to replace unhealthy high fat spreads such as mayonnaise or cream cheese. Hummus can make the most veggie-phobe a veggie fan.
Super Simple and
Super Delish Hummus
1-16 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to obtain a soft, creamy texture.
Transfer to a shallow dish and garnish with any of the following:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Sprinkling of hot or sweet paprika
Zatar (Zahtar), a Middle Eastern spice available online, or at locally owned food markets
Makes about 2 cups
Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits.