By FMT’s Lifestyle Desk
They lack the glamorous, 80’s ‘Dynasty’ coif sported by broccoli; they can’t hold a candle to the sensual, fetish-triggering plumpness of the tomato; and they lack the fugly-but-exotic-Benetton model appearance of eggplant. Beans are associated with zombie apocalypse food rations, and tremendous, coma-inducing, pungent flatulence. But humble, personal stylist-bereft beans are Clark Kents in dorky disguise, brimming with superpowers that can save us all. From broad, lima, kidney, adzuma, black and green, to mung, rice, cowpea, black-eyed pea, chickpea, lentil and soy – the sprawling bean family is a force to be reckoned with. Here’s why:
Free radical damage takes its toll on your skin, immune system and brain. You may know that antioxidants from foods like blueberries, green tea, turmeric and pomegranate can help prevent this damage. Beans have as much or more antioxidants than these other foods. They also have unique antioxidants that can block enzymes, called α-glucosidase and pancreatic lipase, that lead to weight gain and diabetes. Beans highest in these antioxidants include mung and adzuki beans.
Lower blood pressure
Numerous studies have been conducted to see if adding beans to the diet could improve blood pressure. All studies showed that bean intake significantly lowered systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure. The types studied included pinto, navy, northern, peas and black beans.
Help prevent cancer
Cancer is second only to heart disease when it comes to adult death. The most common types of cancer for adults include breast, liver, colorectal, prostate and gastric. Not only do beans dramatically reduce the risk of all of these types of cancers, but an extract of beans, called IP6, is being studied as a possible medicine to combat cancer.
Aid in lowering cholesterol
Adding as little as one serving of beans daily can lower the dangerous LDL-C enough to decrease the risk of heart disease by up to 25%.
Reduce unhealthy cravings
Ever struggle with cravings for sweets or snack foods? Beans can help reduce cravings and cause you to prefer healthier foods. In one study, 42 people had roughly four ounces of chick peas added to their daily diets for four weeks. By the end of 12 weeks, participants were spontaneously eating less food from all sources, especially snack foods made from flour products, like chips and crackers. Bowel regularity and overall digestive symptoms improved significantly for the group.
Improve intestinal flora
You likely know how good bacteria are important for good immune function, skin repair and regular digestion. These organisms help because they produce short chain fats that heal our intestinal lining and lower the risks of colorectal cancer. We get tiny amounts of short chain fats from foods like coconut and butter; however, the vast majority, like butyrate, acetate and propionate, are made by intestinal bacteria when they are given the types of fiber found in beans. One of the easiest ways to keep your good flora strong is to eat beans regularly.
Help kill fungus
Processed food, antibiotics, oral contraceptives and stress can all lead to intestinal yeast. Yeast is bad because it can weaken your immune system and create toxins that raise inflammation. Compounds found in beans have been shown to kill fungus and prevent yeast infections.