I thought I’d share some of my most frequent topics. This one comes up for a variety of reasons. Patients may ask what they should do for diverticulosis found on their screening colonoscopy. Sometimes people want to know how they can get more iron in their diet. Or when I tell people they need to eat less meat, they say, “well, what CAN I eat?” I answer all these questions the same way… We need better bean advertising!
Beans are an extremely beneficial component in all diets because they are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, calories and sodium, and completely cholesterol-free.
Beans are an excellent, non-fat source of protein. Just one cup of beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein.
Beans are loaded with complex carbohydrates – this provides energy to the muscles and brain. Just one cup of beans can provide 15 percent of the carbohydrates needed daily. Plus, beans have the best type of carbohydrate for maximum energy – those considered to be low or moderate glycemic index carbohydrates. Beans and other carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index have the unique ability to provide energy over a longer period of time by being slowly released into your bloodstream to provide sustained energy. Ounce for ounce, complex carbohydrates provide half the calories of fat. They are absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates, such as table sugar and candy, so beans easily satisfy hunger for longer periods of time.
Beans are one of the best sources of dietary fiber, containing both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, generally thought of as “roughage” that moves quickly through the digestive system, is important in our diets because it helps promote a healthy digestive tract and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. During digestion, soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance, which helps the body handle fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates. Soluble fiber plays a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, one of the main risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Studies link high fiber diets to reduced cholesterol levels and lowered cancer risks. Beans are an extremely beneficial component in the diabetes diet because they are high in dietary fiber and low in fat and sodium. A high-fiber diet helps control diabetes and maintain healthy blood glucose levels. In addition, beans are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates – a good way to help control blood sugar levels. And, since fiber-rich foods like beans are filling, they are helpful in weight control.
Like any source of fiber, beans should be added gradually to the diet. The bugs that live in everyone’s gut get used to what you have been feeding them. Any sudden changes in diet will have … consequences. Add beans to your diet gradually, a bite or two per day, with a goal of one-half cup beans per day. It is also important to drink plenty of liquids when adding more fiber to your diet, because fluids help reduce the natural side effects of digesting fiber-rich foods.
When it comes to getting calcium, every bit helps. Adding beans to your diet is a good way to reach your recommended intake. The recommended calcium intake for adults is 1,000-1200 mg per day. A half-cup of beans provides more calcium than some kinds of ice cream or frozen yogurt. Kids need calcium to build a strong skeleton, but the need doesn’t stop there. Throughout adulthood, calcium is necessary to maintain bones and help prevent osteoporosis, a decrease in bone density that can lead to fractures and disability.
Beans contain an abundance of potassium, which may help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. According to a health claim recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, “diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”
- Potassium: one-half cup of cooked dry beans contains as much as 480 mg of potassium.
- Beans are naturally low in sodium, with no more than 5 mg of sodium in a one-half cup serving.
- Folate: an important vitamin that protects your central nervous system dry beans are the best source of folate. Eating one cup of cooked dry beans provides, on average, 264 mcg of folate.
Studies show that those who eat plenty of beans have as much as a 60-point drop in cholesterol. So start adding more bean nutrition to your daily diet – today!