Monday, February 8, 2010

Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit…

…no doubt you've heard that rhyme. Well, they truly are "magical" for a lot of things, including reducing your risk of heart disease!

Beans are high up on the list for one of the greatest foods of all time…

Gram for gram, it would be harder to find a more nutrient dense food for the same cost.

Outside of fruits and vegetables (both carbs), beans are a winner in the carb category too (and, technically, they are a fruit anyhow) – super high in fiber, yet they offer a good amount of protein and other nutrients too.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2003 showed that black beans had antioxidants levels equivalent even to some fruits! The levels of the particular antioxidant, anthocyanin, which gives beans and dark fruits their color, were 10 times as high in black beans compared to oranges – and were equivalent to grapes, apples, and cranberries!

Now all beans are fantastic (pinto, garbanzo, kidney, cannellini, etc), but this particular antioxidant was particularly high in black beans.

Antioxidants fight something called free radicals; too many free radicals and low levels of antioxidants have been associated with heart disease and other diseases.

Aside from antioxidants, we know fiber is fantastic for heart health, but beans also provide folate and magnesium, which both may be responsible for some of their heart health benefits too.

Check this out – in one study, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men from around the world for 25 years.

One of their findings – the higher the consumption of beans, the lower the risk of death from heart disease. And not just a little lower – there was an 82% reduction in risk!

Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed nearly 10,000 Americans for 19 years … people eating the most fiber, which they found to be 21 grams/day compared to those who ate the least (5 grams/day) had 11% less heart disease. The authors attributed this finding to the high fiber in the diet.

This wasn’t just isolated to bean consumption, but since they provide around 10 grams per ½ cup, they’re surely an easy option.

And keep in mind even the "highest" intake of 21 grams/day is less than the recommended intake, which is upwards of 25g+ per day.

So how do you include more beans?

  • Add them to a salad
  • Use them in place of red meat in dishes like chili, quesadillas, or burritos
  • Add them to a wrap with mixed veggies (add avocado for an even better nutrient punch)
  • Add them to eggs with mixed veggies
  • Mix them with canned salmon and some balsamic vinaigrette (a personal favorite)
  • Find a black bean soup recipe or black bean burger recipe online for ideas.

Aim to include 1/2 cup of beans at least 4 times per week.

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