“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”
This is a new series I am starting to confront nutritional misunderstandings that are popular in recent fad diets. I will explain, through evidence from scripture and nutritional studies, why these foods are so much better than what they are portrayed to be.
The first of these foods is beans, legumes, or pulses (regarded in the rest of this post as beans). Beans are the seed of the Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) plant family. That definition alone shows that beans are meant for human consumption (Genesis 1:29).
It is no wonder God intended for humans to consume these nutritional powerhouses because apart from all of the macro- and micro-nutrients beans contain, beans have two primary nutrients that are vital for human digestive health (yet often overlooked): fiber and water. The fiber and water contents in beans allow for proper and easy transport of the food through the digestive track to elimination (Cruz et al. 2011). Also, the resistant starch in the fiber of beans serves as food for the gut bacteria in our intestines, promoting gut health (Hylla et al. 1998, Raigond et al. 2015). This is extremely important for overall health because humans are composed of more non-human bacteria cells in our guts than human cells in our whole bodies (Rosner 2014)!
The macro-nutrients in beans are on average: 5% fat, %50 carbohydrates, and 30% protein (percentages based on calories taken from nutrition facts on packages of beans in my pantry). The large protein percentage in beans help to trigger satiety mechanisms in the stomach, so individuals can stay fuller longer after a meal incorporating beans. In addition, beans were discovered to have a so-called “second-meal effect” (Jenkins et al. 1982, Mollard et al. 2011, Wolever et al. 1988). This means that if an individual eats beans in one meal, the rise in blood sugar from the next meal eaten (even if it is after a night’s sleep) is blunted. This means less rise and fall in energy levels and more stable blood sugar, which is helpful for diabetics in particular.
I hope you are convinced by now to start incorporating more beans into your daily diet. Though, you may still have some hang-ups. One common complaint from bean consumption is increased flatulence. Studies show that this complaint, however, “may be exaggerated” (Winham et al. 2011). Flatulence may be common when you start to add more beans to your meals, but long-term, high-fiber plant foods like beans do not contribute to increases in normal flatulence levels among bean eaters (McEligot et al. 2002).
It is worth noting that there are more than 800 varieties of beans on the planet! Ever since going plant-based, I have sought out bean varieties to incorporate into my meals, and I have only tried twenty types at most. Clearly, I am barely scratching the surface of the flavor and nutrition potential of this remarkable foodstuff. Beans are sold dry, canned, frozen or fresh. I add beans to wraps, stews, sandwiches, and I make veggie-burger patties with them as well. Their versatility in the kitchen is almost as numerous as the variety of beans in the world, which were given to all humans as food (Genesis 1:29). Therefore, take advantage of this beautiful gift and cook some beans today!
References (apart from the Bible):
C. Mollard, C. L. Wong, B. L. Luhovyy, G. H. Anderson. First and second meal effects of pulses on blood glucose, appetite, and food intake at a later meal. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2011 36(5):634 – 642.
J. Jenkins, T. M. Wolever, R. H. Taylor, C. Griffiths, K. Krzeminska, J. A. Lawrie, C. M. Bennett, D. V. Goff, D. L. Sarson, S. R. Bloom. Slow release dietary carbohydrate improves second meal tolerance. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1982 35(6):1339 – 1346.
J. McEligot, E. A. Gilpin, C. L. Rock, et al. High dietary fiber consumption is not associated with gastrointestinal discomfort in a diet intervention trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(4):549-51.
L. Rosner for Microbe Magazine, Feb 2014. Ten Times More Microbial Cells than Body Cells in Humans?
M. Winham, A. M. Hutchins. Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies. Nutr J. 2011;10:128.
M. Wolever, D. J. Jenkins, A. M. Ocana, V. A. Rao, G. R. Collier. Second-meal effect: Low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1988 48(4):1041 – 1047.
P Raigond, R Ezekiel, B Raigond. Resistant starch in food: a review. J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Aug 15;95(10):1968-78.
R K Cruz-Bravo, R Guevara-González, M Ramos-Gómez,T Garcia-Gasca. R Campos-Vega, B D Oomah, G Loarca-Piña. Fermented nondigestible fraction from common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) cultivar Negro 8025 modulates HT-29 cell behavior. J Food Sci. 2011 Mar;76(2):T41-7.
S Hylla, A Gostner, G Dusel, H Anger, H P Bartram, S U Christl, H Kasper, W Scheppach. Effects of resistant starch on the colon in healthy volunteers: possible implications for cancer prevention. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Jan;67(1):136-42.
I received many of these references from nutritionfacts.org. I highly recommend this site. Every article lists sources cited so you can check the study for yourself.