January 6th was #NationalBeanDay and I want to take a moment to honor beans, beans, the TRULY magical legume/vegetable Yes, they are considered both legumes and vegetables by the USDA (but not fruit lol). I know you're singing that song in your head and are wondering about the toot part, which I will address at the bottom of this post!
"The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world is quite simply: beans."
Dan Buettner is a longevity researcher - he studies the regions of the world where the happiest and healthiest people live. He has identified five "Blue Zones" throughout the world where populations of the longest living humans share 9 key characteristics. These zones differ in location, and modestly differ in diet, but all of these populations consume 90% or greater of whole plant foods, and at least 1 cup of beans every single day.
Beans have been staples around the world for most of human history. They're cheap, versatile, delicious AND they're nutritious. Beans are high in protein, fiber, iron, and antioxidants. They're a great source of vitamins and minerals, and it's no surprise that studies find they decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, other chronic diseases, and can help with weight loss.
I love them for all of the above reasons, and for how they make me feel. Strong, energized, and full. They are low on glycemic index (so they don't spike our blood sugar), are naturally gluten-free, and they help with digestive regularity. And while they are packed with protein, they don't come with any of the saturated fat, cholesterol, toxins, hormones, or other harmful ingredients that come with animal proteins.
Beans also contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, neither of which are found in meat. While simple carbohydrates (like the sugars found in soda, energy drinks, and sweets) should be generally avoided, whole foods with complex carbohydrates are healthy and packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Fiber, as you probably know, is what keeps our digestive system moving. It's the part of plant food that doesn't get digested. I like to think of fiber as little scrubber brushes that pass through our colon and clean us out. Fiber can help prevent minor health problems like hemorrhoids or constipation, and major diseases including cancer and heart disease (our two biggest killers!). Animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) contain no fiber AT ALL, so it's important to eat plenty of whole, plant foods to get your healthy fiber in. Most Americans are deficient in this critical nutrient! Beans are a great source.
"Not every day or every week. Every meal!"
But what about GAS?
Yes, beans have a gassy reputation, but most people will find that their bodies acclimate after 2-3 weeks of slowly increasing fiber intake. There's a few things you can do to help:
-Soak, rinse, and cook beans thoroughly (I use my Instant Pot!)
-Add a piece of kombu seaweed to the pot. You won't taste it, but you will get the added enzymes which counteract the gas-causing culprits.
-Pop a couple digestive enzymes with your meal.
-Take a daily probiotic to help restore good gut bacteria.
-Don't worry. Your body will get used to the increase in healthy fiber.
Tell me, how do you like your beans?
Chili? Curry? Burgers? Falafel? Tacos? Hummus? Salad? Brownies? Cookie dough?
They're sooooo versatile!