You are probably familiar with the naughty children’s rhyme: “Beans, beans, good for the heart/The more you eat, the more you…” The first part is true, and as for the second, well, it can now be cut by up to 70 percent. Beans deserve their reputation for causing flatulence. Flatulence results when carbohydrates (scratches and sugars) arrive in the colon incompletely digested and are fermented by the bacteria there. The fermentation process releases gas. Any incompletely digested carbohydrate – from bagels to pasta – can ferment in the colon and cause gas. But beans are the richest sources of two particular carbohydrates, raffinose and stachyose, that the body cannot digest because humans lack the enzyme to do it.
If gas is a problem for you, do not swear off beans. Instead, boil, rinse and soak them. Boil dried beans in a covered pot for three minutes, then let them stand for two hours. Next pour off the water, add enough new water to cover the beans, then replace this water after two hours and let the beans soak overnight. Rinse them once more before cooking. Or you can add Beano to bean dishes. It contains the missing enzyme that allows the body to get digest raffinose and stachyose. Beano is available at health food stores and some pharmacies and supermarkets.
Why would you want to go to all this trouble just to eat beans? Because they are good for you.
Diabetes. Bean cuisine gives everyone protection from heart disease, but people with diabetes enjoy special bean benefits. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart disease, which is an excellent reason for anyone with diabetes to boost their bean consumption. In addition, the soluble fiber in beans also helps keep blood sugar under control.
Heart disease. Beans are a staple of the Mediterranean diet that helps prevent heart disease. Just by eating a half-cup of cooked beans a day for about a month reduces cholesterol an average of 10 percent. The type of bean does not matter – pinto, black, kidney, lentils, garbanzos, soybeans, red, navy, white, baked; they all cut cholesterol. Why? Because they are high in soluble fiber, which helps eliminate cholesterol from the body. Every 1 percent decrease in cholesterol results in a 2 percent decrease in heart attack risk, so one daily serving of beans reduces heart attack risk about 20 percent, especially if it takes the place of meat, cheese or other high-fat foods.
Lung and pancreatic cancer. All beans are high in folic acid, one of the B vitamins. There was a connection between folic acid deficiency and lung cancer. It was found that high levels of the B vitamin in the lung tissue of healthy men, but much lower levels in cancerous lungs. Folic acid can also be found in abundance in green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. It was also found that compared with people who ate beans rarely or not at all, those who ate them at least once a week enjoyed significant protection from pancreatic cancer.
Neutral tube birth defects. Bean’s high folic acid content also helps prevent potentially fatal birth defects of the spine. Over the last decade, so many studies have shown that folic acid prevents neural tube defects that doctors now recommend folic acid supplements for pregnant women. Beans do not replace recommended folic acid supplementation, but every time a pregnant woman bites into a bean burrito, she is taking a step to prevent these tragic birth defects.
Osteoporosis. Manganese, an essential trace mineral is important for bone strength. Animals deficient in manganese develop severe osteoporosis, and these studies show that women with osteoporosis tend to have low manganese levels. Beans are a rich sources of manganese. So are pineapples, oatmeal, nuts, and tea.