Beans, beans…they’re good for your health?
by Vic Shayne, PhD
Professor Maurice Bennink, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, says eating beans can reduce malnutrition and chronic diseases.
Bennink says, “Chronic diseases (certain types of cancer, Type II diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases of the blood system) typically take many years (10 to 30 years) to develop. Chronic diseases are the most common causes of death in industrialized countries and they significantly lower the quality of life for millions.”
But hold on a minute! Aren’t beans known to have lots of carbs?
Yes, beans have carbohydrates, but they are also a great source of protein. Plus, their carbohydrate content is not to be confused with bad carbs such as table sugar, cookies or white bread. Such foods have been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Elevated glucose (blood sugar) and chronic low blood sugar are two major problems that result from poor diets. Beans can help.
Beans are low on the glycemic index
High glycemic foods cause a more rapid and greater rise in blood glucose and insulin than foods with a low glycemic index even though the amount of carbohydrate consumed is equal. Not all carb foods are the same. Compared to other carbohydrate sources, beans have a low glycemic index. This means they do not cause stress on your pancreas or the ups and downs in blood sugar levels that are unhealthy.
High glycemic index foods are known to cause rapid elevations in blood glucose and insulin following a meal.
Beans are also high in fiber, which is good for lowering cholesterol, keeping the bowels working and regulating blood sugar.
What’s wrong with being overweight?
Bennink reports, “Excess body fat increases the risk of developing heart disease, strokes, Type II diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. There has been a steady increase in the percentage of overweight and obese individuals in North America and Western Europe. The increase in obesity is considered to be of epidemic proportions in the U.S. and in most developed countries. For example, on a worldwide basis, more than one billion adults are overweight and more than 300 million are obese . In the U.S. more than 60% of the adult population is overweight or obese. Obesity and overweight account for approximately 300,000 deaths per year in North America and the cost associated with excess fatness is estimated to be greater than 117 billion dollars per year.”
A good food
In the 1960s I remember watching President Kennedy making an appeal to the American public on television. He was bemoaning the fact that so many underprivileged children were eating beans instead of meat and he hoped we could change that picture. While the president was well-meaning, now that we know more about the nutritional value of beans, it’s clear that his administration could have made more of a push to wipe out the wave of refined and processed foods that were about to swamp the nation and cause the most harm.