Benefits of Beans
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.
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!
- 1. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Jan 11;65(1):6-22. Health Risks and Benefits of Chickpea (Cicer arietinum) Consumption. Gupta RK, Gupta K, Sharma A, Das M et al.
- 2. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):69-76. Technological properties, antioxidant activity and total phenolic and flavonoid content of pigmented chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) cultivars. Heiras-Palazuelos MJ, Ochoa-Lugo MI, Gutierrez-Dorado R. et al.
- 3. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 1:S11-26. Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.): a review. Jukanti AK, Gaur PM, Gowda CL, Chibbar RN.
- 4. Venn BJ, Perry T, Green TJ, Skeaff CM et al. The effect of increasing consumption of pulses and whole-grains in obese people: a randomized controlled trial J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Aug;29(4):365-72
- 5. 2010 Apr;54(2):282-8. Chickpea supplementation in an Australian diet affects food choice, satiety and bowel health. Murty CM, Pittaway JK, Ball MJ.
- 6. Benef Microbes. 2010 Jun;1(2):197-207. Diets supplemented with chickpea or its main oligosaccharide component raffinose modify faecal microbial composition in healthy adults. Fernando WM, Hill JE, Zello GA et al.
- 7. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017 Mar;1392(1):43-57. Can pulses play a role in improving cardiometabolic health? Evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Viguiliouk E, Blanco Mejia S, Kendall CW, Sievenpiper JL.
- 8. 2014 May 13;186(8):E252-62. Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ha V, Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ et al.
- 9. Br J Nutr. 2010 Feb;103(4):569-74. The potential health benefits of legumes as a good source of dietary fibre. Trinidad TP, Mallillin AC, Loyola AS et al.
- 10. Clin Nutr. 2016 Oct 1. pii: S0261-5614(16)31264-X. Dietary protein from different food sources, incident metabolic syndrome and changes in its components: An 11-year longitudinal study in healthy community-dwelling adults. Shang X, Scott D, Hodge A et al.
- 11. Nutr Cancer. 2015;67(3):401-10. Nutrient and nonnutrient components of legumes, and its chemopreventive activity: a review. Sanchez-Chino X, Jiminez-Martinez C, Davila-Ortiz G et al.
- 12. Agurs-Collins T, Smoot D, Afful J, Makambi K, Adams-Campbell LL. Legume intake and reduced colorectal adenoma risk in African-Americans. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2006 Dec;17(2):6-12
- 13. Adebamowo CA, Cho E, Sampson L, Katan MB et Dietary flavonols and flavonol rich foods intake and the risk of breast cancer. Int J Cancer 2005 Apr 20;114(4):628-33
- 14. Heli E, Virtanen K, Timo T et al. Intake of different dietary proteins and risk of type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. British J of Nutrition, 2017; 1
- 15. McCrory MA, Hamaker BR, Lovejoy JC, Eichelsdoerfer PE. Pulse consumption, satiety and weight management. Adv Nutr Nov. 2010 vol 1:17-30
- 16. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(8):1137-45. Chickpeas—composition, nutritional value, health benefits, application to bread and snacks: a review. Rachwa-Rosiak D, Nebesny E, Budryn G.
- 17. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2002 Winter;57(1):83-97.Nutritional composition and antinutritional factors of chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) undergoing different cooking methods and germination. El-Adawy TA.
- 18. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch. 1987 Nov;185(5):386-93. [The influence of germination on the nutritional value of wheat, mung beans and chickpeas]. Harmuth-Hoene AE, Bognar AE, Kornemann U, Diehl JF.
- 19. Nutrients 2016 Nov 29;8(12). pii: E766. The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus. Wallace TC, Murray R, Zelman KM.
- 20. 2013 Jul 25;2(3):338-349. Nutritional Profile and Carbohydrate Characterization of Spray-Dried Lentil, Pea and Chickpea Ingredients. Tosh SM, Farnworth ER, Brummer Y, et al.