Beans are actually part of a family called legumes. This also includes lentils and peas of various kinds. Beans are low-glycemic, high-fiber, high-protein, and packed with very important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

However, canned beans have been cooked and processed, and often have different glycemic levels. In addition, if you cook your own dried beans, you should soak them overnight which removes sugars as well as gas-producing compounds from the outer coating of the shell, and home cooking retains most of the nutrients (any heat destroys some level of nutrients in any food). Soak them overnight in a colander set inside a bowl so it’s easy to drain them by just sitting the colander in the sink. They are easy to prepare in a crockpot while at work, and can easily be frozen in proportions for use an as ingredient or a single food later. If you absolutely have to use canned, please rinse them several times in cold water.

There are many kinds of legumes readily available, including black, garbanzo (chickpeas), kidney, soy, Lima, pinto, mung, and several varieties of lentils. You can create everything from smoothies, to brownies, to burgers with the different varieties of beans, not to mention standards like hummus and a bowl of good old pinto beans.

Why is it the magical fruit?? Nevermind what the old song says, but let’s focus on scientific information. High in protein, fiber and protein, as well as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc, eating them regularly may decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, colorectal cancer, and helps with weight management by decreasing your appetite.

Eating beans in your diet several times a week may decrease the risk of colorectal adenomas (polyps), which may in turn lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Eating beans regularly may lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers have also found that consumption of legumes, particularly soybeans, was inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.

For those who are vegetarians and vegans, beans are hearty and are a good alternative to high-fat protein sources like red meat. Even the latest dietary guidelines recommend weekly legume intake be tripled from 1 to 3 cups per week. Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories, but you feel fuller, faster. One advantage over meat is that they have much more fiber and water than red meat. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber. Meat contains NONE. Not to mention, you get a decrease in saturated fats. Beans also contain phytochemicals, which meat does not contain. They also contain the amino acids cysteine, methionine and lysine.

Beans are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body, which cause cell damage including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. When USDA researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods, THREE types of beans made the TOP FOUR FOODS: small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans.

Beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstram from spiking and causing hunger. However, they are high in protein, so they trigger the release of glucagon if you eat them within a half hour of waking for your morning protein, which regulates your insulin during the day, avoiding afternoon blood sugar lows, and cravings for carbs. An old British staple for breakfast, there are lots of fun ideas such as black bean breakfast burritos with tofu, mashing them into a little patty in which you can add sausage herbs and sautéing them in a little coconut or olive oil, etc.

Beans pretty much ARE a magical fruit!

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband and their kitties.