Cooking with Marlene Koch

Health Benefits of Beans

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 beans and other legumes (not the yellow and green bean 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, beans 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 in beans 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.

Beyond Fiber
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. Beans 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 beans 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 barbeque, pot-luck or dinner with this week’s sensational recipe: Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad

Marlene Koch, RD, is a registered dietitian who has specialized in delicious food and healthy lifestyles for over twenty years. Marlene holds a degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Los Angeles, California. Marlene is a best-selling author of healthy, low-sugar cookbooks. Marlene is a frequent guest on TV, radio and websites such as iVillage and
Read more about Marlene Koch

The goal of Destination Diabetes is to be a useful and credible resource for the more than 20 million children and adults who have diabetes in the U.S. and their families. Destination Diabetes provides information on a wide range of diabetes health and wellness topics. Articles are written or reviewed by diabetes advisors who have experience in diabetes education.