From the Bean Protocol Diet to longevity experts like Dan Beuttner and even the United Nations, beans are taking center stage. Depending on where you grew up, beans were either a staple on the dinner table or relegated to the occasional side dish. Few American households consume beans on a daily basis, but perhaps that should change. We’ll take a look at the theories, benefits and the research behind them so that you can decide if beans should be on the menu more often in your household.

Benefits of eating beans everyday

Beans are the original plant-based protein and there's nothing impossible about them! They are rich in fiber, potassium, iron, and vitamins all which make them very healthy to consume. The following are some well-established benefits of beans.

  1. Promote growth and repair of body cells. Beans are rich in proteins (22g/100g for black beans) which are essential building and repair of body tissues like the bones, blood, hair, muscle, and skin (2, 3).
  2. Promote gut health. Beans are also very rich source of fiber (15g/100g for red kidney beans) which is not digested in the small intestines. As such they end up in the large intestines where bacteria feed on them and increase in population, fighting off disease causing bacteria and consequently boosting the body’s immune system (4,5).
  3. Helps with blood glucose control.Since fiber cannot be digested, it will not be absorbed into the blood stream, as such there will be no rapid spike in blood sugar levels after eating beans (6). Research shows that consuming a cup of legumes every day is effective in reducing blood sugar levels (7).
  4. Helps fight cancer.Beans contain several phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants are compounds that capture bad atoms in the body called free radicals, that cause oxidation and eventually damage cells and can cause cancer. (8). Beans phenols like flavonoids reduce inflammation, inhibit the proliferation of cancer, and cause their death (9).
  5. Enhances heart health.Beans contain a very low-fat content (about 1.4g/100g), which also is not saturated. Thus, they do not increase blood cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease (10). Additionally, the soluble fiber in beans binds to cholesterol molecules, preventing their uptake into the blood stream (11).
  6. Helps with weight loss. Beans are usually not calorie dense, hence they are a great food to be included in a weight loss diet plan. Besides, the high fiber content of beans makes them keep you feeling full for longer. This is because fiber slows down the speed with which food leaves the stomach (gastric emptying) by forming a viscous gel which moves slower (12).


Kombu the secret weapon for digestibility

Beans can be notoriously hard to digest. This is because beans contain a type of sugar called oligosaccharides, which the human body cannot break down. However, cooking beans with kombu can help to make them more digestible. Kombu is a type of seaweed that is often used in Japanese cuisine. It contains an enzyme called alginate, which can help to break down the oligosaccharides in beans. As a result, beans cooked with kombu are easier on the stomach and can be more easily absorbed by the body. For those who are sensitive to beans, cooking with kombu may be a helpful way to enjoy them without experiencing discomfort.

Do beans contribute to longevity?

Beans are a staple food in the diets of many of the world's healthiest populations. In his book, The Blue Zones, Dan Beuttner highlights the fact that beans are eaten every day by residents of the world's longest-lived cultures. He found that beans remained an unbeatable staple in the day-to-day meal plan of these people and concluded that eating as little as a cup of beans daily can increase your life expectancy by 4 years (13, 14). What is the bean protocol diet? The bean protocol diet is a weight loss plan that requires eating beans at every meal. The diet was created by Dr. John McDougall, a physician who specializes in nutrition and preventative medicine. The bean protocol diet is based on the premise that beans are a highly nutritious food that can help promote weight loss. The bean protocol diet requires eating beans at every meal, as well as drinking eight glasses of water each day. The diet also prohibits the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. Proponents of the diet claim that beans help to keep you feeling full, making it easier to stick to your calorie goals. Beans are also thought to promote a healthy gut microbiome, which can lead to better overall health. While the bean protocol diet is still fairly new, preliminary studies suggest that it may be an effective way to lose weight and improve your health.

Myths: antinutrients in beans

Though beans are very nutritious, there exists myths about them being toxic to the body because of the presence of antinutrients which make some people avoid them. Beans do contain antinutrients like lectins, oligosaccharides, phytic acid, and tannins, which can be harmful if the beans are raw or undercooked. Antinutrients are compounds that are naturally present in plant foods, and they can bind to vitamins and minerals, making them unavailable for absorption. Antinutrients have gotten a bad rap, with some people claiming that they can cause nutrient deficiencies. However, this is a myth. Antinutrients actually play an important role in human health. For example, phytic acid is an antinutrient that helps to protect plants from disease and pests. It also acts as an antioxidant in the body, and it has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. Antinutrients also help to promote gut health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Do beans contain lectins?

Lectins are a type of protein found in beans that has been getting a lot of attention lately. Some people claim that lectins are harmful and can cause digestive issues, but is there any truth to this? First of all, it's important to note that not all lectins are created equal. Some Lectins are actually beneficial and play an important role in our immune system. It's only the certain type of lectin found in beans that has been linked to digestive issues. That being said, there is still some debate as to whether or not these lectins are actually harmful. Some studies have shown that they can cause digestive distress in some people, while other studies have found no link between lectins and digestive issues. So what does this all mean? If you're concerned about the lectins in beans, there are a few ways to reduce their levels. One is to soak the beans overnight before cooking them. This helps to break down the lectins and make them more digestible. You can also cook beans with other ingredients that contain lectin-binding properties, such as onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Finally, sprouting beans before cooking them can also reduce their lectin content. By taking these steps, you can enjoy the health benefits of beans without having to worry about the negative effects of lectins.

The gas problem

Beans have a reputation of making people fart, and some people do get bloated after eating beans. This is because the fiber in beans, is fermented in the large intestines by bacteria that produce gas in the process. Soaking beans in water, for 6 to 12 hours and discarding the water before cooking the beans reduces gas production and flatulence. The longer the soaking time, the lesser the gas production because the more gas forming compounds are leashed away from the beans (17, 18).

Are some beans healthier than others?

There are over 400 different varieties of beans in the world today and sure they do vary slightly in their nutritional contents. Black beans are generally considered the healthiest because they contain the highest levels of antioxidants. They are also particularly rich in essential minerals and vitamins like folate and manganese (19). Soybean is the only beans which contains all the nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of complete proteins (20). Tepary beans have a high protein content in addition to their rich meaty dense structure, thus making them ideal for vegetarian dishes (21). Lentils are the richest iron containing legumes with one serving providing for about 17% of the recommended daily value. They are also said to be the easiest to digest (22).

Why beans get a bad rap

Beans started getting a bad rap since ancient times. Food historian Ken Albaba reported that the Romans believed beans was food for the poor because beans were cheap to cultivate, and offered a protein value comparable to meat, making them greatly loved and eaten by the poor. He also reported that according to ancient writers like Pliny, Pythagoras the great Greek mathematician and philosopher banned fava beans and together with his community considered them as a “supernatural symbol of death”. There was however a deadly allergy associated with consuming the beans, making it deserving of their reputation. Today this is known as favism, a hereditary disorder that makes some people react negatively to fava bean (Vicia faba) (23, 24).

Can you eat too many beans?

Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you... well, you know the rest. But seriously, are beans really all they're cracked up to be? Surely there must be such a thing as eating too many beans, right? Well, according to some experts, beans are actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They're packed with nutrients like protein, fiber and antioxidants, and they're relatively low in calories. Beans are also a good source of iron, magnesium and potassium. So what's the catch? There really isn't one. beans are about as close to a perfect food as you can get.

Downsides of eating beans

Allergy. Some people can be allergic to some beans and/or some members of the legume family. Some allergies are mild, evidenced by the appearance of skin rashes. Some others are severe and deadly like favism (25).
Flatulence and bloating, which though not harmful, cause discomfort. People with health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, are not advised to be careful with beans as it aggravates their symptoms (26).

Beans are the only protein rich vegetable sourced food, widely consumed around the world. They are loaded with minerals, vitamins and phenolic compounds that make them very beneficial to the health. Though they are reputed for making people fart, soaking, sprouting, and proper cooking are time tested methods that reduce gas as well as antinutrients in the beans.

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