Beans and legumes are fruit or seed that both come from the family of Fabaceae; and though both have the same proven health qualities, beans and legumes are some of the most underrated food on the planet. Perhaps, the lack of knowledge about said food might be the reason.
Beans and Legumes
There are varieties of beans and legumes that consist of different health benefits. These foods are actually the vegetarian’s replacement for the meat which is rich in protein. Moreover, they are excellent sources of dietary fiber, B vitamins plus many other important vitamins and minerals.
We’ll walk through some of the beans and legumes and their healthful qualities; but before that, do you know the difference between the two?
Truly, beans and legumes are from the same family of plants; however, if you are thinking that “beans” and “legumes” are entirely interchangeable, you are wrong. Legumes are plants that bear fruit that grows in pods; while beans are the seed from different varieties of plants, although typically, the whole plant is referred to as beans.
Eyebrows still up? Let’s look at it in a different way.
Have you seen a peacock (whether in person or in picture)? We know that all peacocks are birds; on the other hand, not all birds are peacocks. There are entirely subcategories of birds such as penguins, sparrows, and herons.
It is the same thing with beans and legumes: all beans are legumes, but legumes are not necessarily beans. Legumes can be broken down into subsections: beans, peas, lentils, asparagus beans, peanuts, etc.
Healthiest Beans and Legumes You Can Add to Your Grocery List
Now, that you are armed with this knowledge, let’s explore some of the healthiest beans and legumes that you may include in your regular eating habits and diet.
Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans. It is a great source of fiber and folate. Additionally, it is beneficial at decreasing blood cholesterol, improving gut health, increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar.
There was a study wherein 19 women ate a meal that contains 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of chickpeas. These women significantly had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who ate the same amount of white bread.
Similarly to chickpeas, lentils can help reduce blood sugar levels compared to some other food that is high in carbohydrates. It is also one of the sources of proteins and is a great addition to soups and stews.
In a study of 3000 people, those with the highest intake of lentils and other legumes had the lowest rates of diabetes.
In one study, 23 overweight people, who also had high cholesterol, were given 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of pea flour per day for 28 days. Significantly, these people reduced insulin resistance and belly fat.
The study simply shows that, like any other legumes, peas are a great source of fiber and protein. It helps in reducing the increase in insulin and blood sugar similar to other types of legumes. Aside from that, it reduces blood triglycerides and increases the feeling of fullness. Therefore, you can include this in your menu if you are in the diet of decreasing weight.
Peas can also be given in elderlies; as the study shows that it can increase stool frequency reducing the use of laxatives.
Kidney beans are one of the most consumed beans and are mixed with rice. There are numbers of health benefits that kidney beans possess.
It has the potential to lessen the risk factors of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
A study shows that eating kidney beans with rice will reduce the spike in blood sugar compared to eating rice alone. An extract from white kidney beans may decrease body weight and fat mass.
Black beans are a staple food in Central and South America. It has a lower glycemic index which means that it causes a smaller rise in the blood sugar compared to many other high-carbohydrate foods.
Asia is where soybeans commonly consumed. It is in a lot of different forms which include soy milk and tofu.
Soybeans health benefits lie on the antioxidants (called isoflavones) that it possesses. Observationally, it is suggested that consuming soybeans reduce the risk of cancer. Meaning, the participants’ diet were not controlled and other factors affecting the risk of cancer is considered.
A combination of 21 studies found that eating a large amount of soybeans was associated with a 15% lower risk of stomach and other gastrointestinal cancer. Another one found similar results on breast cancer, though the result is not clear and the effect was much smaller.
Soybeans’ isoflavones are phytoestrogens which means that it can mimic the effect of estrogen. Estrogen tends to decline during the menopausal period. So, it appears that soybeans is especially effective in women.
Like other legumes, soy help reduces risk factors for heart disease which include blood pressure and cholesterol.
Pinto beans are common in Mexico and often eaten as whole, mashed or fried.
These beans help to reduce bad low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase the production of propionate which is good for gut health. It also responsible for controlling blood sugar after eating a meal.
Also known as haricot beans. This is a great source of fiber plus B vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked navy beans contains a lot of nutrients. Moreover, it helps reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome likely due to their high fiber content.
A study was conducted on 38 children having abnormal blood cholesterol. They were given muffin and smoothie containing 17.5 grams of navy bean powder every day for four weeks; and significantly, the 38 children had found to have a higher level of healthy high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. The effect is found to be similar with adults.
Peanuts are legumes. This characteristic sets peanut apart from most other types of nuts. It is one of the sources of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, proteins and B vitamins.
It has been found in some studies that eating peanuts is associated with a lower risk of death from many different causes. It includes heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. However, these studies are only observational. Additionally, the same effect of peanut has not been found in peanut butter.