Beans & Legumes are superfoods

Beans, also called legumes, have a number of health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, decreasing blood sugar levels, providing protein for energy and increasing healthy gut bacteria. Beans are also an excellent source of fibre and B vitamins.

Beans belong to the Fabaceae family of plants, which is what sets them apart from other fruits and seeds.

Every plant we eat has at least a little bit of protein in it, and some have a lot, such as beans! Beans have some health benefits that animal sources don’t. Beans are high in minerals and fibre without the saturated fat found in some animal proteins.

Personally I eat beans daily and couldn't recommend them higher. 

They are amazing protein and fibre sources which is brilliant news for any vegetarian or vegan. They are also super dense in nutrients which makes them a far superior protein than animal proteins. They are also incredibly low in saturated fats which again means the negative health benefits associated with these fats in animal protein sources are completely avoided. 

My 4 Best Bean Picks

1. Black Beans

Black beans are very popular among vegans because when they are combined with brown rice, a complete protein meal is formed. This meal can be a simple and inexpensive solution to not having complete protein sources on a vegan diet.

Black beans are a good source of energy, protein, dietary fibre, and various vitamins and minerals. Black beans also have high levels of flavonoids, particularly anthocyanin, which have antioxidant abilities. They also contain omega-3 fatty acid, which is considered a good form of cholesterol. Further, black beans are a great source of folic acid and have abnormally high levels of the rare compound molybdenum, which is very difficult to find in any other food.

A fun fact is that molybdenum is shown to reduce impotence and erectile dysfunction in older men when regularly consumed. This rare vitamin has regularly been linked to increased energy and interest in sexual activity in older men. So if you're looking for some natural libido increases then beans are your friends. 

Black beans are great for relieving digestive issues because they contain high levels of protein and fibre, making them a “superfood”. Protein and fibre help food move through the digestive tract, allowing it to eliminate waste in a healthy way. They are also digested slower than animal proteins, which has a similar protein content, so eating beans can leave you satisfied for longer. Over time, with a regular addition of black beans to the diet, the soluble fibre content will absorb water into your stool, which can reduce constipation. 

Moreover, a study published by a team of Australian researchers also stated that uneven digestive rates can cause unbalanced blood sugar levels in the body. As mentioned above, the fibre and protein in black beans keep digestion at a steady rate, so concentrated doses of nutrient uptake do not occur. Rather, a steady absorption of nutrients occurs throughout the digestive process. When digestion is unsteady, spikes or crashes in blood sugar can occur, which are dangerous and even fatal to patients with diabetes or similar blood sugar-related conditions.

2. Chickpeas

Chickpeas contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may help prevent the development of various chronic diseases.

Chickpeas have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load, and contain amylose, a resistant starch that digests slowly. These factors help to prevent sudden surges in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can improve overall blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Chickpeas contain a soluble fibre called raffinose, a type of oligosaccharide that is fermented in the colon by beneficial bacteria called Bifidobacterium. As bacteria break down this fibre, a short chain fatty acid called butyrate is produced. Butyrate plays a role in reducing inflammation in the cell wall of the colon, promoting regularity in the intestines, and possibly preventing colorectal cancer by promoting cell apoptosis (death).

Chickpeas contain a plant sterol called sitosterol that is structurally similar to cholesterol in the body. It interferes with the body’s absorption of cholesterol and thereby can help to lower blood cholesterol levels. The fibre and unsaturated fats in chickpeas may also favourably affect blood lipid levels.

High fibre foods can help to promote a feeling of fullness and satiety by delaying digestion and adding bulk to meals. The satiating effect of the high fibre and protein content of chickpeas may help with weight management. 

3. Lentils

Lentils are one of the most fibre-rich foods you can find, having high contents of both soluble and insoluble fibre. According to The Worlds Healthiest Foods, one cup of lentils provides you with 63% of your daily value of fibre.  Fibre is not only good for lowering cholesterol, but it does wonders for helping your digestive system stay regular and helps keep your blood sugar stable.

Lentils are a great addition to your meals that will keep you feeling energised since they're so full of slow burning complex carbohydrates, fibre, and iron.  Also, Lentils are packed full of folate and magnesium, proven to be helpful in aiding your heart health.

Vegans and vegetarians understand the struggle of getting their protein, especially if they've recently switched over from meat-eating. Lentils are very protein-rich for being the size that they are, giving you 36% of your protein requirements. Also, lentils are perfect for those watching their calorie intake since they have such a low caloric content. One cup of lentils contains only about 230 calories. So being able to get more than two-thirds of your daily fibre and one-third of your daily protein in only about 230 calories is pretty convenient! Lentils aid weight loss in a healthy and nutritious way.

4. Soybeans

Soy is a complete protein. This means that it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is an important source of protein for many people, especially those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Soy has links to more healthful cholesterol levels, which can help lower the risk of heart disease. In 2015, researchers conducted an analysis of studies to look at the effect of soy on people's cholesterol levels. They found that consuming soy significantly reduced levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the arteries. Soy foods are also naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. Animal protein foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Further, soy foods contain omega-3 fats, essential polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating soy-based foods is a great way to boost your fibre intake. Fibre promotes a healthy gastrointestinal system, reduces cholesterol, and is associated with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Including fibre-rich soy foods like edamame (green soybeans), black soybeans, soy nuts, soy flour and tempeh in your diet can help you boost your daily dietary fibre.

Soy foods are a great source of vitamins and minerals. B-vitamins, iron, zinc and an array of antioxidants round out the nutritional qualities of soy. In addition, many soy foods are enriched with vitamin B 12 , calcium, and vitamin D to help vegetarians get these much needed nutrients.

Soy foods are a good source of phytochemicals. The phytochemicals in soy are called isoflavones. Isoflavones are currently being studied for their role in preventing postmenopausal bone loss and certain cancers.