There are few foods that are as important worldwide as the humble bean. These versatile plant seeds are essential to many cultures as a primary food source. It helps that beans are pretty tasty, too.
Asia, Europe, and the Americas all have their own unique species of native beans. As a result, there are unique cultural histories surrounding different species of beans.
Hundreds of bean varieties exist, but some of the most common types today are soybeans, black beans, pinto beans, and white beans. All bean varieties have their own subtle flavor, but when it comes to nutrition, they provide similar health benefits.
The nutrients in beans can provide significant health benefits. The antioxidants found in beans can help reduce cell damage caused by free radicals. This can lower your risk of cancer, sagging skin, and other signs of aging. Darker-colored beans have more of these antioxidants because they have more pigments that contain them.
Other health benefits of beans include:
Beans have a low glycemic index rating, which means that the body absorbs energy from them slowly. This helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking after a meal. People with diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, often find that low-glycemic-index foods like beans help them manage their blood sugar and insulin levels more effectively.
Beans are rich in soluble fiber, which is a kind of fiber that turns into a watery gel in your stomach. This gel absorbs cholesterol, especially “bad” LDL cholesterol before your body can. Lower cholesterol levels help prevent problems like heart disease and stroke.
Beans are also full of insoluble fiber, which your body can’t digest. Insoluble fiber can help add bulk to your stools, reducing problems like constipation. Some of the bacteria in your digestive system consume this insoluble fiber. Eating insoluble fiber helps fuel these good bacteria, keeping your digestive system running smoothly.
Beans are a good source of phytonutrients. These nutrients may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers, like breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Phytonutrients may also help reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce the symptoms of menopause.