You may remember the school yard chime, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit…” You say “musical?” Well, I say magical! The FDA agrees and has approved a U.S. dietary guidance message that says bean-rich diets may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. This includes garbanzo, kidney, black and other legumes (not the yellow and green varieties). Studies also suggest that eating beans as part of a healthy diet may help to manage diabetes and help cut the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
When it comes to a healthy diabetes diet, beans are fantastic! Chock-full of fiber, they have a low glycemic index (the rate at which a food raises your blood sugar), and provide sustained energy while slowly being released into your blood stream. A one-half cup serving of most beans contain 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate and up to an incredible 8 grams of fiber.
The fiber helps to fill you up (but not out), while promoting a healthy digestive tract and helping to lower blood cholesterol levels. Although carbohydrate rich, beans also form high levels of a type of “resistant” starch (starch that is resistant to digestion) – when cooked and then cooled. This makes chilled cooked beans in particular easier on your blood sugar than many other starches.
If that weren’t enough, beans provide loads of vitamins such as folate, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. They are also naturally fat-free and dry legumes are very low in sodium. Lastly, legumes are a wonderful source of inexpensive protein, with as much as 10 grams per serving. In fact it’s hard to find a better source of overall great nutrition and protein than beans.
Cooking with Beans
- Canned, cooked beans are delicious and convenient. Rinse before using to reduce the sodium and add to soups, salads, or your favorite chicken or tuna salad recipe.
- Combine equal amounts of lean beef and beans for the best chili in town.
- Add them to whole grain pasta or rice side dishes to add creaminess and extra fiber.
- Pureed beans make great dips and spreads. For a quick and easy White Bean Dip, puree 1 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans with 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of each olive oil and lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add zest to any barbecue, pot-luck or dinner with this week’s sensational recipe: Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad.
Marlene graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in nutrition from U.C.L.A. in 1986 and is one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association. Combining her love of food with her educational foundation, she has held such positions as Hospital Foodservice Director, Nutrition Professor, Cooking Instructor for the Columbus State Culinary Academy and as a national nutrition educator to chefs for the American Culinary Federation. Her passion for teaching others how to make healthy food taste delicious also extend to her private nutrition practice specializing in weight loss, diabetes, and wellness.
Marlene loves to teach (and to eat!); her energetic and upbeat style has made her a popular food and nutrition speaker for organizations such as the American Diabetes and American Heart Associations and sought after for television and radio appearances which have included affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Shaw TV (Vancouver) and radio stations nationwide.