Benefits of Beans

April 13th, 2018 | Posted in Info | Uncategorized

There are many reasons to include beans in your diet including ethical, environmental and health factors. Beans are a good source of protein, fibre, resistant starch, oligosaccharides, sterols, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, folate and antioxidants including carotenoids and isoflavones (1,2,3). Below are just some of the health benefits of eating beans. See the blog post Digestible Beans for tips on how to enjoy your beans without the side effects.

Beans for Protein

Beans are an excellent source of protein especially when combined with grains, nuts or seeds (4), eg: hummus with pitta bread or lentil dahl and rice. Soya beans are complete proteins in themselves.

Beans for Satiety

Beans are very low on the glycaemic index meaning they will not upset blood sugar or insulin levels. One study found that while consuming 100g of chickpeas a day the participants ate less overall and fewer processed snack foods. The chickpeas increased satiation and improved bowel function (4,5).

Beans for Intestinal Health

Raffinose is an oligosaccharide found in beans. Research in which participants were given either 200g of chickpeas or 5g of raffinose a day found that the balance of bacteria in their intestines improved, with increased numbers of beneficial bacteria and reduced pathogenic and putrefactive bacteria. The researchers conclude that chickpeas and raffinose have the potential to improve the intestinal microbial composition in humans thus promoting health (6).

Beans for Cardiovascular Health

Pulses can help in the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (7). One review found that eating 130g of pulses a day significantly lowered LDL cholesterol (8,9). Getting a significant amount of protein from legumes and nuts also leads to a reduced likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome and reduced weight gain compared to getting the majority of dietary protein from animal sources (10).

Beans and Cancer

Legumes have been shown to contain anticarcinogenic agents which are especially effective in the early stages of carcinogenesis. Consumption of legumes is thought to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer (11,12) and breast cancer (13).

Beans and Diabetes

Eating a diet rich in plant protein from foods such as beans is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes whilst a diet rich in meat increases the risk (14).

Beans for a Healthy Weight

People who eat a lot of beans and lentils are less likely to be overweight than those who don’t (15).

Beans and Acrylamide

Acrylamides found in baked goods such as crackers, bread, snack foods and crisps are formed when carbohydrates are cooked at high temperatures. They are believed to have carcinogenic effects. Adding chickpeas or chickpea flour when baking such foods increases their nutritional value and reduces the acrylamide content (16).

Beans and Anti-nutrients

Despite being a highly nutritional element of the human diet, beans also contain various anti-nutritional compounds, including protease inhibitors, phytic acid and lectins that may impair the utilization of nutrients (17). Soaking followed by cooking or sprouting beans are effective methods to reduce the anti-nutritional factors and to increase the amount of protein and nutrients available (17,18).

Take a Dip

Consumers of beans and hummus have been shown to have higher intakes of dietary fibre, vitamins A, E and C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron as compared to non-consumers (19). Hummus can be made using any bean and makes a great dip or spread with vegetables, pitta bread, baked potatoes or oat cakes.

Crunch Time

Although many consumers know that pulses are nutritious, long preparation times often put people off using them regularly. However crunchy cooked and dried beans such as chickpeas are now available as snacks. Pulses cooked and dried in this way have been shown to maintain appreciable amounts of resistant starch, protein and fibre making them a good alternative to crisps (20).

Look out for next month’s blog post Winning Ways with Beans in which there’ll be lots of ideas for how to incorporate beans into your meals, snacks and even cakes!


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