Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit…
Why you want more, and which ones are nutritionally the best.
For thousands of years, cultures everywhere have enjoyed beans. When they emigrated to the U.S., they brought bean recipes with them: Hoppin’ John, Cuban black beans, red beans and rice, kidney & lentil dal, so on.
Bean crops, especially chickpeas/garbanzo beans, heal the soil by putting nitrogen back in it. They’re often called “nitrogen fixers” in the permaculture community.
Yet suddenly, according to many fad DIEts and doctors, beans are dangerous. They contain lectins that harm your gut, lead to leaky gut, and upset your stomach. They also contain oligosaccharides—sugars that cause digestive issues. Never mind that they’re high in carbs, leading to weight gain.
This is simply not 100% true, though I understand the confusion around beans. Let’s look at the truth behind the previous claims:
- They do increase flatulence in most people—they’re high in fiber, which many in the SAD lifestyle aren’t used to having. And even when you are used to the fiber, gas may occur. I don’t believe gas is a sign of serious health trouble—animals fart.
There’s a lot of money in inducing fear, even if it’s targeted towards a normal body function.
- Reduce or remove lectins by soaking, rinsing, and pressure cooking your beans. I don’t subscribe to the aquafaba trend, by the way. Rinse that stuff off your beans, and don’t worry about whatever “it replaces” in your diet.
Have the spritz of oil… make meringue out of ethically sourced eggs.
- Oligosaccharides cause digestive issues in a small fraction of the population. But they also feed gut bacteria, so you need them for a healthy digestive system.
Removing food after food only increases food issues—it doesn’t remove them.
- Beans are high in protein and fiber, which slows their digestion, keeps you full longer, and moves food out of your colon.
No one, and I mean NO ONE has died of an illness because they ate too many lentils and sweet potatoes.
In my upcoming Transformation 101 class, I mention something worth repeating:
“… it is popular to isolate and sell functional components of foods as dietary supplements and many supplements are marketed for their ‘antioxidant’ properties. However, functional ingredients may not produce the same effects when delivered outside a whole food matrix.”
You cannot separate compounds in Nature and exploit them, whether you’re selling them as a health benefit or damning them. Nature strategically pairs compounds so they heal as a whole—fruit is ideal over fruit juice because it contains fiber. The lycopene in tomatoes depends on other compounds in the tomato to deliver its healing effects—and heating tomatoes increases their healing power. How’s that happening in a supplement!?
Therefore, lectins and the other “problems” listed above aren’t problems when combined with other factors. Nature’s worked it all out and we’ve never had issues until our SAD lifestyle took over.
Beans, beans, are good for your heart. The more you eat…
Beans as supplementation.
I have a host of cookbooks and medical books written by plant-based doctors. They all prescribe beans/legumes as a part of a healthy lifestyle, along with gluten, soy, and all the other damned plant foods. To maintain an unbiased view, I also research doctors and experts who aren’t plant-based… even in the “non-plant-based” world of medicine, there’s a lot of evidence showing the health benefits of beans, soy, and other legumes.
Our stress levels, intake of toxins via food, alcohol, sugary drinks, and other pollutants weaken our immune system—so beans cause trouble for some of you.
This is why I focus on my third pillar of health, Ancient Wisdom. When I have clients or students with IBD/IBS, etc., I advise them to start with 1-2 tablespoons of legumes per day, if they cause pain. I also suggest starting with more digestible beans like lentils and specifically, split lentils.
In Ayurveda, kitcherie is a dish given to infants, the elderly, and anyone suffering from serious illnesses. It’s easy to digest, has healing spices and ghee, and is high in protein. It’s made of split beans, white basmati rice, spices, and ghee. I have a yogi client who requests it when her husband goes in for an endoscopy or has digestive issues, because she understands the healing benefits of kitcherie.
If you want to include a small amount of beans to repair your gut, want to increase heart health, or just love beans, I’m passing along the most nutritious beans to focus on. As always, I’m interested in you getting the most bang for your buck!
If you need recipes for these, I have plenty… but an internet search provides all the recipes you need. This is where international cooking becomes mandatory, as the SAD lifestyle doesn’t include many bean dishes.
In order of nutritional value:
- Lentils (all types: red, green, brown, black, etc.)
- Small red bean
- Black bean (aka black kidney)
- Red kidney
- Mung beans
- Navy bean (cannellini, not navy)
- Baby Lima
And here’s how beans stack up nutritionally:
- They have slow-digesting starch (for current AND subsequent meals!), so you get the effects of beans for multiple meals. Talk about bang for buck, especially for diabetics and women in menopause!
- Lower LDL cholesterol oxidation. This helps prevent cancers and heart disease, which is why “beans, beans, good for your heart…”
- Feed bacteria in our colon (also known as prebiotics), which crowds out bad bacteria
- High total antioxidant content, meaning they gobble up dangerous free-radicals
- As you know, they’re high fiber, which reduces your risk for colon cancer and other colon diseases
- They reduce blood sugar, which is great for diabetics and women in menopause
- And they reduce metabolic & oxidative stress and inflammatory response—reducing inflammation is a massive key to your health and longevity
But how do you pick the best type of beans?
Returning to the underlying theme of bang for buck, I’m not a fan of canned beans. They’re OK for an emergency, but they aren’t ideal. They line cans with harmful chemicals to preserve them. Even “BPA-free” isn’t ideal, as manufacturers just replaced it with other harmful chemicals. Canned beans, especially colored ones like black or kidney, often contain EDTA to preserve coloring.
Canned beans add to already-stressed landfills. They cost 3x the amount of dried beans and manufacturers don’t all cook them ideally. No wonder we have digestive issues from this healthy food!
To support dried beans, some facts to chew on: 😋
- 1 lb dried beans = 5 cups cooked = 10 servings
- 1 can = 1.5 cups = 3 servings
- Soak beans at least 4 hours or overnight, if possible
- Cover with 1” water and, depending on the bean,
- Pressure cook 3-14 minutes
- Simmer 45 min–2 hours
- NOTE: never add salt to beans during initial cooking, as it keeps the skin hard. Soaking beans in salt, however, keeps the skin of the bean intact. Just be sure to rinse them well…
- Add baking soda to beans while cooking them, to soften them (caution with pressure cookers—baking soda reacts and causes the pressure cooker to sputter more. Beans are usually softer with a pressure cooker anyway, so I’ve never found a benefit to adding baking soda.)
- For optimal health, use seaweed when cooking beans. I’ve seen various types recommended, and use whatever I have on hand… traditionally, kombu is the seaweed used in macrobiotic cooking. Seaweeds infuse the beans with more nutrients (especially iodine), and also aid in digestion
To summarize, there are a wealth of healing benefits to eating beans, and several health concerns in avoiding them. If you have questions regarding a specific bean, recipe, or digestive issue, reach out to me or comment below!