Beans, belonging to the legume family, are celebrated as tasty, easy to prepare, nutritious, a good meat substitute, and are even sung about as childhood rhymes. What is it about beans that make them such a magical food?
Beans have many health benefits for the human body. Chen Tsung Yu, a Taiwanese nutritionist, offers his excellent knowledge of beans.
Beans can be divided into three types:
- Protein beans: Soybeans, black beans, black beans with green kernels, lentils, mung, pinto, kidney or red beans and edamame kernels are all rich in protein, with every 50 grams of fresh beans containing 7 grams of protein—equivalent to the protein content of 30 grams of meat, as well as many vitamins.
- Starchy beans: Besides being high in protein, mung beans, kidney or red beans, and pinto beans are rich in starch content and contain an array of nutrients.
- Fun facts about other “beans”: Peas are considered a vegetable, and string or green beans are actually a fruit. Both are low in calories, high in fiber and probiotics, and even beneficial for healthy bowel movements.
Nutrients in Beans
Rich in protein, beans also contain estrogen-like ingredients such as soy isoflavones and goldfinch isoflavones, which can help improve symptoms of menopause such as night sweats, hot flashes, skin problems, and psychological stress caused by estrogen deficiency, and can also improve blood lipids and remove free radicals.
Bonus Value of Natto and Black Soybeans
In Japan, the most popular bean is the Japanese natto. Natto is fermented so that the nutrients are easily absorbed. The bean contains nattokinase and vitamin K that can help maintain cardiovascular health, and the lipase, cellulase, and amylase enzymes in natto help to promote gut health. Natto is an excellent enzyme food for the elderly, people who eat out often, and people who have irregular meals.
Black soybeans are healthy beans that contain higher amino acid content and higher nutritional value than green or yellow soybeans. Black soybean water is sometimes recommended as a treatment to relieve edema. Chen suggested that eating black soybeans can also replenish dietary fiber.
Beans for Body Builders?
Are bean products suitable for people who want to gain muscle and lose fat?
Chen said beans are cholesterol free, which can promote cardiovascular health, useful for exercise including body-building.
In addition, according to the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, the digestible indispensable amino acid score of soybean is 0.91—a nearly full score. In other words, after digestion and absorption, a high percentage of soybeans can be converted into amino acids required by the human body—another boon for working out.
Chen said the intake of animal proteins and plant-based proteins should be balanced.
Although beef contains more protein than beans, it has more saturated fat, so people who have poor cardiovascular health could choose beans as an alternative, as they are lower in fat. Eggs are a great source of protein. Chen encourages people to consume more eggs and bean products.
Are Beans Suitable for Diabetics and Males?
Because beans contain large amounts of starch, would eating them induce a surge in the blood sugar level of diabetes patients? Chen said that it depends on the type of bean. Non-starchy beans will not induce a rise in blood sugar and may be the best choice.
Since beans contain estrogen, are they suitable for men to eat? Chen believes that although beans are rich in estrogen, there is no evidence that their consumption increases estrogen in men and get the green light for eating.
Are GMO Soybeans Harmful to the Body?
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) soybeans are a current hot topic of public concern. The FDA approves GMO products as safe for human consumption and in 2020 94 percent of soybean crops were GMO. However, the long-term effects of GMO foods have yet to be determined. Chen said that currently, labels on the food packaging indicate if the product is genetically modified. People can also ask restaurant staff about ingredients before ordering meals.
Chen reminded people who make soy milk at home to cook it well, and to remove the foam that forms during the process. After removal of the foam, the soymilk should be simmered for another 15 to 20 minutes to ensure that the saponin and any suspected protease (two compounds that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort) are removed.
Epoch Health articles are for informational purposes and are not a substitute for individualized medical advice. Please consult a trusted professional for personal medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. Have a question? Email us at HealthReporter@epochtimes.nyc