After-40 Nutrition: The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans

By Samantha Heller, MS, RDAuthor of Get Smart: Samantha Heller’s Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power & Optimizing Total Body HealthClinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care, Griffin Hospital

After-40 Nutrition: The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans

Beans are a super healthy, super versatile and super affordable food. Beans are high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. Eating beans regularly may decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, colorectal cancer, and helps with weight management. Beans are hearty, helping you feel full so you will tend to eat less.

As we get older, we need fewer calories and beans are a great way to boost the nutrition power of your meal without boosting the calories. A half-cup of beans has only about 100 calories.


What Beans Can Do for You

All legumes such as kidney, black, white and red beans, chick peas and lentils confer health benefits.

  • Including beans in your diet several times a week may decrease the risk of colorectal adenomas (polyps), which may in turn lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Eating beans regularly may lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • The Shanghai Women’s Health Study looked at the legume consumption of over 64,000 women and their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that consumption of legumes, particularly soybeans, was inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. The more legumes these women ate, the lower their risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
  • Beans are hearty and are a good alternative to high-fat protein sources like red meat.
  • In the Nurses Health Study of 83,818 women, researchers found that women who ate peanuts and peanut butter had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Peanuts, which technically are considered a legume, are high in healthy fats, magnesium and fiber.
  • Beans you may not have heard of but are worth a try: mung, adzuzki and cranberry.

 

What You Can Do With Beans    

You can buy dry beans and soak them overnight. If you buy canned beans, rinse them before using to remove some of the added sodium.

  • Hummus - for a quick dip, purée a 15-ounce can of chick peas, ¼ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of paprika. Serve with toasted whole wheat pita triangles and fresh vegetables for dipping.
  • Add to soups, salads, stews and chili
  • Add to pasta
  • Serve as a side dish

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