"Beans. Beans. Beans. They're good for your heart."
The term bean is a common name for large plant seeds from the legume family. When it comes to human consumption, the beans most of us eat are the seeds of grain legumes, called pulses. Examples of pulses include beans (black, navy, pinto), chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peas, and peanuts.
Grains like cereals, breads, pastas, and rice typically take up a large portion of American plates and are the primary source of carbohydrates in the human diet. From both a nutritional standpoint and a health standpoint, we would be better off making beans the staple and all other grains the side item.
Beans are rich in essential vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. They are high in fiber and low in saturated fat. Beans generally have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't tend to cause significant spikes in blood sugar levels. Beans are also an important source of protein. And while beans provide most of the essential amino acids that our bodies require, with the exception of soybeans, beans are considered incomplete protein sources. Adding some whole grains to your beans creates a complete protein source.
But does the favorable nutritional profile of beans benefit your heart? Well, in one study of Costa Ricans, eating one serving of beans per day was associated with reduced odds of having a heart attack! In another study of nearly 10,000 subjects, eating legumes at least four times per week was associated with a 22% lower risk of heart disease. And, in a study of nearly 30,000 women, replacing carbohydrates or animal sources of protein for vegetable sources of protein such as nuts, tofu, and legumes was associated with a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease.
So, there does seem to be some truth behind the lyrics to this childhood tune. Unfortunately, this tune also toots about the downside to beans that comes from all that good fiber. In this musical clip of "Beans In Me", I show you an easy and tasty recipe you can prepare for your kids and also give you some tips so that you can enjoy your beans without having to suffer in the end.
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The above video features a recipe that I adapted from the following link:
In the video, I reduced the sodium content by using dried beans and cooking with one half cup of reduced sodium chicken broth rather than using canned beans. Sprinkling your beans with your favorite whole grain and chopped cilantro not only creates a complete protein source, but creates a delicious and complete meal. So, as the song goes, "Eat some beans in every meal!"
Kabagambe EK, Baylin A, Ruiz-Narvarez E, Siles X, Campos H. Decreased consumption of dried mature beans is positively associated with urbanization and nonfatal myocardial infarction. J Nutr 2005;135:1770-1775.
Bazzano LA et al. Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Arch Intern Med 2001;161:2573-2578.
Kelemen LE et al. Associations of dietary protein with disease and mortality in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. Am J Epidemiol 2005;161:239-249.