Beans are small but mighty—they are packed with fiber (sometimes even more than many grains, cereals, and pasta), high in protein, low in fat, and full of important micronutrients like zinc and iron. There are even studies that demonstrate how bean-based meals leave you feeling fuller for longer than those with meat.
There are plenty of bean varieties that have their own nutritional perks. Some of the ones you should look out for while you’re shopping are:
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Kidney beans
- Red beans
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- Navy beans
- Fava beans
- Cannellini beans
- Black-eyed peas
If you’re still not convinced that you need more beans in your diet, here are seven reasons beans are, in fact, cool.
They may help you live longer
A 2004 study tracked the dietary habits of elderly people across four different countries and discovered that eating only 20 grams of legumes a day (any plant that grows fruit inside a pod, like beans) may reduce their risk of death by seven to eight percent. That’s probably why beans are a staple in most centenarian diets.
Legumes also support brain function as we age, which will help you make the most of those extra years.
They may help ward off disease
Beans have been linked to the prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers. It doesn’t matter what your bean of choice is, because all varieties have been found to play a role in disease prevention and treatment.
They reduce bad cholesterol
Are you concerned about your cholesterol levels? Pulses (which is just the fancy name for beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dry peas) are known to lower low-density lipoprotein, aka LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol. To address your cholesterol woes, consider replacing foods that are high in saturated fats with fiber-rich beans.
They can help you lose weight
If you have an insatiable sweet tooth, then incorporate beans into brownies, cakes, and cookies to add more protein and fiber to your dessert. Beans have the added plus of ranking low on the glycemic index so they can help stabilize blood sugar spikes.
They battle sun damage
Legumes are high in zinc, which helps heal scars and prevent sun damage along with other signs of aging. Half a cup of kidney beans offers just under a whole day’s amount of zinc, which will support your skin health. Beans also contain polyphenol, which is full of antioxidants, so combining a bean-filled diet with the right sunscreen will help protect you from the sun’s powerful rays.
There’s also been older research that shows that older people who ate a lot of legumes had fewer wrinkles, but more research is needed to confirm this link.
They’re good for the environment
Replacing meat with beans will effectively reduce your carbon footprint. Beans, unlike most other plants, don’t even need nitrogen fertilizer to grow in abundance. They make their own fertilizer by storing nitrogen in their roots, which helps them thrive while supporting other crops that are planted in the soil once the legumes have been harvested.
They don’t actually make gas worse
Beans have proven to be a magical fruit for the reasons listed above… but not because “the more you eat the more you toot,” as the charming nursery rhyme goes. Older research demonstrates that if you experience bean-induced gas, it will probably decrease once you start eating them regularly.