There aren't a lot of foods that can hold more than one place on the food pyramid. But, long before we started talking about super foods, ancient peoples knew the benefits this humble food had to offer; as a vegetable, a protein, and a healer.
In traditional Indian medicine, there exists an ages-old system of living and healing that includes a vegetarian diet using legumes like lentils, beans, and peas to keep the body healthy. Now, beyond the Middle-Eastern cultures, many people recognize the power of the bean to support whole nutrition and well-being. Here, we discuss some of the benefits of beans, and why they are leading a double life as a well respected super food.
Perfect Nutrition On Many Levels
Legumes are edible seeds contained in pods, and beans are part of that family. By their very nature, beans have a convenience factor that makes them a favorite food in many parts of the world. They are generally inexpensive and store well with the potential for a long shelf life, particularly when they are dried. Beans offer sustained nutrition and energy due to the fact they have a low glycemic index, meaning they provide energy to the body over a long period of time.
You won't get bored quickly eating beans, either. There is virtually an endless variety of beans and legumes to choose from, as well as a mountain of recipes to try when adding beans to your healthy diet. A short list of beans would include navy beans, black beans, lentils, soybeans, great northern beans, mung beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, and kidney beans.
Beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and are naturally low in fat, calories, and sodium. You can serve beans in nutritious main dishes or side dishes that will satisfy your appetite with less-costly consequences to your body, or budget. These reasons alone would easily earn beans their super food status, but there's more!
Eating several servings of beans each day not only helps you reach your daily vegetable requirement, but those same beans also add up as your protein intake. Yes, those inexpensive, versatile beans are a protein. That's why we consider them a double-duty super food. Beans can easily be combined in recipes with other protein sources, vegetables, and starches like corn, whole wheat, or brown rice to create 'complete proteins' containing all the necessary amino acids our bodies require to function well.
Good Health Contributions
Beans have numerous healthy qualities that make them excellent additions to any diet. As we mentioned, not only are beans a nutritious vegetable source, but a perfect choice as a meat substitute. By reducing high-fat protein sources like red meats in your diet, and substituting low fat beans as your source of protein, you are fighting high cholesterol, high blood pressure, as well as a host of other ailments that can occur from a diet high in fat.
Antioxidants battle those nasty free radicals, the cell damaging agents in your body, and beans have some of the highest antioxidant content of any food on the planet. Although the benefits vary between different types of beans, all beans help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve digestion. The dietary fiber and enzymes in beans have the added benefit of helping to block cancer-causing cells and compounds in the intestines and colon.
The humble little kidney bean contains a healthy dose of thiamin, which regulates memory and brain function. Many beans also contain isoflavones, which can ease menopause symptoms and improve bone and prostate health, just to name a few benefits. Choose any bean and you've chosen a super food well worth the title.
Beans can be cooked in countless dishes like chili, stew, soup, stir fry, tacos, salads, casseroles, and omelets. Try your hand at several main dishes or side dishes and explore your options. Don't limit yourself to just the classic beans and rice dish. Choose a new salad or a tasty dip for chips. Hot, cold, mashed, or whole, the bean will constantly surprise you with its versatility.
As opposed to canned beans, dried beans are the cheapest way to have this super food on hand. In general, cooking dried beans is easy. Rinse your dried beans, cover in water and soak overnight. Then, set the beans in a big pot, cover them with fresh water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour or so until they are soft. You can skip soaking them overnight, just increase the cooking time to about two hours. You will also find many recipes for cooking dried beans in a crockpot or pressure cooker. Do a bit of research or follow the directions on the package of beans for best results.
No matter how you choose to eat this super food, your body will thank you. You can eat enough beans to satisfy even the heartiest appetite without worrying about fat or calories. Beans are economical, a great source of dietary fiber, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Besides all that good news, a bag of beans in your pantry means you've always got protein in your house, too. As far as super foods go, beans easily make it to the top of the list.